Today, the Consumer Choice Center sent a letter to the members of the House Judiciary Committee to explain our opposition to a series of bills soon to be introduced on the House floors related to antitrust actions.
The full letter is below, and available in PDF form to share.
Dear Member of the House Judiciary Committee,
As a consumer group, we write to you to raise your attention about a series of bills that will soon be introduced on the floor of the House and make their way to the House Judiciary Committee.
These bills, soon to be introduced by Democrats and co-sponsored by some Republicans, relate to antitrust actions to be taken against tech firms based in the United States.
These include the Merger Filing Fee Modernization Act, End Platform Monopolies Act, Platform Anti-Monopoly Act, Platform Competition and Opportunity Act, and Augmenting Compatibility and Competition by Enabling Service Switching Act.
In our view, these bills are not about concern for the consumer, the consumer welfare standard as traditionally understood in antitrust law, or even because companies like Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, and Microsoft are “too big.”
Rather, these actions are a zealous takedown of American innovators that will harm consumers and punish innovation. This is a dangerous precedent.
Many of the tech companies in the crosshairs offer free or inexpensive services to consumers in a competitive marketplace that boasts hundreds of social apps for messaging, photo sharing, social networking, and online marketplaces that offer quick delivery, stellar service, and unbeatable prices.
As consumers of these services, we understand that there are often decisions made by these companies that raise concerns. For political conservatives, the issue hinges on whether there is bias in the moderation of accounts, comments, and products. For liberals, it is about whether these companies are too powerful or too big to be reined in by government, and questions about how they pay their taxes or whether various tech companies played a part in getting Donald Trump elected in 2016.
These are all valid concerns, and we have been active in calling them out where necessary.
However, using the power of the federal government to break up innovative American companies subject to domestic law, especially in the face of mounting competition from countries that are not liberal democracies, such as China, is wrong and will lead to even more unintended consequences.
The American people benefit from a competitive and free market for all goods, services, and networks we use online. Weaponizing our federal agencies to break up companies, especially when there is no demonstrated case of consumer harm, will chill innovation and stall our competitive edge as a country.
If there are breaches of data or if consumer privacy is compromised, the Federal Trade Commission should absolutely issue fines and other penalties. We agree with this. If there are egregious violations of law, they should be dealt with immediately and appropriately.
Let us be clear: The internet is the ultimate playground for consumer choice. Government attempts to intervene and regulate based on political considerations will only restrict consumer choice and deprive us of what we’ve thus far enjoyed.
The overwhelming majority of users are happy with online marketplaces and with their profiles on social platforms. They’re able to connect with friends and family around the world, and share images and posts that spark conversations. Millions of small businesses, artists, and even news websites are dependent on these platforms to make their living. This is an especially important point.
Using the force of government to break apart businesses because of particular stances or actions they’ve taken, all legal under current law, is highly vindictive and will restrict the ability for ordinary people like myself or millions of other consumers to enjoy the platforms for which we voluntarily signed up.
We should hold these platforms accountable when they make mistakes, but not invite the federal government to determine which sites or platforms we can click on. The government’s role is not to pick winners and losers. It’s to ensure our rights to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness, as the Declaration of Independence states.
As such, when these bills come before you as legislators, we urge you, as a consumer advocacy group speaking for millions of people just like you around the country, to reject them.
Deputy Director, Consumer Choice Center