Lawmakers release bipartisan antitrust bills aimed at Big Tech

Five antitrust bills targeting Big Tech have been released. CNBC’s Julia Boorstin reports on the details. Subscribe to CNBC PRO for access to investor and analyst insights on tech and more:

Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google could be forced to overhaul their business practices under an expansive set of antitrust reforms introduced by a bipartisan group of House lawmakers on Friday.

The package of five bills, draft versions of which were reported by CNBC and other outlets, would make it harder for dominant platforms to complete mergers and prohibit them from owning businesses that present clear conflicts of interest. The legislation represents the most comprehensive effort to reform century-old antitrust laws in decades.

The bills will need to be voted on favorably by the Judiciary Committee before making their way to the full House. They would also need to be approved by the Senate before they could be signed into law by the president.

The measures come in the wake of a lengthy investigation by the House Judiciary subcommittee on antitrust into the four companies that was completed last year.

The panel found at the time that Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google hold monopoly power and that antitrust laws should be revised to better deal with the unique challenges of competition in digital markets.

While Democrats and Republicans diverged on some of the solutions, they mostly agreed on the alleged competitive harm and that reform was necessary to reinvigorate the markets.

Two of the new bills introduced Friday could prove especially difficult for Amazon and Apple to navigate, given both operate marketplaces that include their own products or apps that compete with those of other sellers or developers that rely on their services, a risky set-up under the new legislation. Those bills comprise the Platform Anti-Monopoly Act — which seems to have been renamed the American Choice and Innovation Online Act — sponsored by House Judiciary subcommittee on antitrust Chairman Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., and the Ending Platform Monopolies Act, sponsored by Vice Chair Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash.

The bills, in their draft form, already inspired pushback from tech-funded groups.

“Adopting the European regulatory model would make it harder for American tech companies to innovate and compete both here and globally,” Geoffrey Manne, president and founder of the International Center for Law & Economics, said in a statement. The group has received funding from Google in the past.

Adam Kovacevich, CEO of center-left advocacy group Chamber of Progress, backed by Amazon, Facebook and Google, among others, published a Medium post earlier this week arguing that consumers would lose out on more than a dozen popular features should those two bills pass.

Under those proposals, Kovacevich argued, Amazon would not be able to offer Prime free shipping for some products and Google could not serve users the most popular results for businesses in their areas because of rules against discriminating on their platforms. He also wrote that Apple would not be allowed to pre-install its own “Find My” apps on its devices that help users locate lost items. Facebook couldn’t allow for easy cross-posting to Instagram, also due to the conflict of interest and non-discrimination provisions, Kovacevich argued.

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