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Association for Self-Employed Workers Voices Concern on Antitrust Measures Against Tech Companies

  • National Association for the Self-Employed issues statement of concern over proposed antitrust measures targeting tech giants
  • Bills introduced in Congress on Friday seek to rein in power of major companies
  • NASE says the legislation could inadvertently harm small companies who use the digital services to open their businesses and conduct activities

Summary by Dirk Langeveld

The head of an organization representing self-employed workers and micro-businesses is expressing concern about a suite of antitrust measures that have been put forward in Congress in an effort to rein in the power of major tech companies.

Keith Hall, president and CEO of the National Association for the Self Employed, described the measures as “potentially harmful” to solopreneurs, startups, and small businesses who “depend on tech platforms to not only open their new business, but also conduct activities on these tech platforms.” Hall also noted how many small businesses made use of digital tools to help endure the COVID-19 pandemic, and said the proposed measures could cripple their ability to recover from the crisis.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has also voiced its opposition to the measures, saying they target a specific set of companies instead of addressing business practices and that this approach could be ruled unconstitutional. It added that “efforts made by these bills to use antitrust law to supplant the role of regulation are equally misguided,” suggesting that agencies should instead be given the resources necessary to enforce antitrust laws guided by consumer welfare standard and rule of reason.

Rep. David Cicilline, the Democratic chairman of the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial, and Administrative Law, and Ken Buck of Colorado, the committee’s Republican ranking member, announced a set of five antitrust bills on Friday designed to give regulators more oversight of major tech companies. The legislation would only apply to companies with a market capitalization of $600 billion or more and at least 50 million monthly active U.S. users or 100,000 monthly active U.S. business users, effectively limiting their scope to giants like Alphabet, Amazon, and Facebook.

Buck said the bills were crafted after a 16-month congressional investigation into the state of competition in the digital marketplace, and that the legislation “breaks up Big Tech’s monopoly power to control what Americans see and say online and fosters an online market that encourages innovation and provides American small businesses with a fair playing field.”

The antitrust measures that would be enacted by the bills include:

  • Prohibiting companies from discriminatory conduct, including a ban on self-preference for their own products
  • Eliminating the ability of platforms to use their control over multiple businesses to self-preference or otherwise “disadvantage competitors in ways that undermine free and fair competition”
  • Forbidding platforms from acquiring competitive threats by dominant platforms (such as Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram) or making acquisitions that “expand or entrench the market power of online platforms”
  • Creating a more competitive environment by requiring platforms to lower barriers for users and businesses to switch their data to other services via interoperability and data portability requirements
  • Increasing filing fees paid to antitrust agencies to review mergers for the first time in two decades

Both Democrats and Republicans have criticized tech giants as engaging in anti-competitive behavior and having too powerful a role in influencing the economy. Tech groups are pushing back agains the legislation, saying it would lead to the loss of convenient consumer features offered by the companies.

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