President Joe Biden signed a new executive order on Friday aimed at tackling anti-competitive practices in big tech, labor and numerous other sectors.
“Capitalism without competition is not capitalism. It’s exploitation, “Biden said in a speech ahead of the signing of the directive in the White House.
The comprehensive arrangement, which includes 72 measures and recommendations involving more than a dozen federal agencies, is intended to reshape thinking around corporate consolidation and antitrust laws, according to a White House leaflet.
These broad goals and initiatives include:
- Call on the Federal Trade Commission to “question previous bad mergers” that previous governments let slip
- Urging the FTC to ban restrictions on professional admission on the grounds that they “impede economic mobility”
- Encourage the FTC to prohibit or restrict non-compete agreements
- Encouraging the Federal Communications Commission to restore “net neutrality” rules that were reversed during the Trump administration
- Request to the FCC to block exclusive contracts between landlords and broadband providers
- Lowering prescription drug prices by helping government and indigenous efforts to import cheaper drugs from Canada
- Allow hearing aids to be sold over-the-counter
- Establishment of a “White House Competition Council” to guide the federal response to the growing economic power of large corporations
“The impetus for this executive order is really where we can encourage more competition across the board,” said White House chief economic adviser Brian Deese, Ylan Mui of CNBC in an exclusive interview aired early Friday morning.
Through its technology-related measures, the Biden order aims to ensure that the largest companies in the industry wield their power to crowd out smaller competitors and exploit consumers’ personal information.
The regulation calls on regulators to undertake a number of reforms, including increased scrutiny over technology mergers and a greater focus on maneuvers like “killer acquisitions” where companies buy smaller brands to take them off the market.
The tightened grip of the technology giants has led to a decline in innovation, Deese told Mui.
These platforms have “caused significant problems,” Deese said. These include “privacy and security issues for users” and “small business entry issues,” he said.
The executive order “is not just about monopolies,” said Deese, “but about consolidation in general and the lack of competition when you have a limited number of market participants.”
He noted that some research suggests that wages are lower in more concentrated markets dominated by only a handful of companies. A White House factsheet cites a May 2020 Journal of Human Resources paper that based on data from CareerBuilder.com, it found that market consolidation points to a double-digit percentage decline in wages.
The order was announced just weeks after the House Judiciary Committee voted for six antitrust laws to reinvigorate competition in the technology sector.
The draft laws that would make it more difficult for dominant companies to complete mergers and forbid certain common business models for such companies have been significantly pushed back by those concerned that they will not go far enough or have unintended side effects.
In late June, a judge dismissed complaints from the Federal Trade Commission and a group of attorneys-general alleging that Facebook illegally maintained monopoly power.
Biden’s executive order also calls on the FTC to enact new rules for Big Tech’s data collection and user monitoring practices, and calls on the agency to ban certain unfair competition practices in internet marketplaces.
The arrangement could provide some relief to small and medium-sized businesses that have complained about the alleged crippling grip of tech companies like Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google on the digital markets.
Biden’s executive ordinance does not unilaterally impose its will on big tech companies, but instead often calls on independent agencies to take action.
But the new FTC chairman, Lina Khan, a Biden-appointed person who, at 32, was the youngest person to ever hold that role when she was sworn in last month, already has a reputation for being a vocal advocate of reform and empowerment Developed regulations for technology giants.
Amazon is demanding that Khan be excluded from ongoing investigations into his business, arguing that it lacks impartiality and that it has repeatedly said the company is “guilty of antitrust violations and should be liquidated.”
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