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Amazon, other tech giants could be forced to throw assets under the bill



House lawmakers are preparing to propose bipartisan legislation that Amazon may require.

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com Inc. and other technology giants to effectively split into two companies or abandon their private label products, according to people familiar with the matter and documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

The bill, which people say could be announced Friday, could require a structural split between Amazon and other major technology companies, which Congress spent 15 months investigating as part of an investigation into the size and power of Big Tech. Another bill, which could also be announced Friday, focuses on the ability of large technology companies to use their online platforms to favor their own products over competitors.

Both Republicans and Democrats have signed each bill, and more are expected to join once it is announced, according to a source.

Called the Final Platform Monopolies Act, the draft proposed structural unbundling bill considered by the Journal states: “It is illegal for a covered platform operator to own or control a business other than the covered platform when the covered platform owns or controls that activity. to an irreconcilable conflict of interest. “This language may be changed in the final bill.

The proposed legislation will have to be passed by the Democratic-controlled chamber, as well as the Senate, where it is likely to need significant Republican support. While Republicans are concerned about the power of technology companies, many are skeptical about changing antitrust laws.

The proposed bills are among the five bills under consideration that aim to limit the dominance of technology giants, including Apple. Inc.,

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Facebook Inc.

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and Alphabet Inc.

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Google in addition to Amazon. Other bills address issues such as data portability and the ability of large companies to make acquisitions that pose a threat to competition.

Most legislation focuses only on large technology companies. Accounts targeting definitions state that they must have a market capitalization of $ 600 billion or more, have more than 500,000 active monthly customers, and be a critical trading partner.

Currently, only four companies – Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google – meet the parameters set out in the bills, according to one person, and they are the same companies that Congress is investigating as part of its Big Tech study. Walmart Inc.,

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for example, it operates an online market and has private label products, but has only a market valuation of $ 392 billion, so it will not be subject to any of the accounts, according to someone familiar with the matter.

The proposed Terminal Monopolies Act has been compared to the Glass-Steagall Banking Industry Act, which separates commercial and investment banking.

Amazon operates one of the world’s largest platforms for third-party vendors to sell its products, but it also competes against those vendors with its own business selling similar products in a range of its own brands – often at prices below its third party sellers.

Amazon CEO Jeff Wilk is discussing the distribution of the company’s private labels. He speaks on WSJ Tech Live.

Congress said the platform favors Amazon’s own merchandise to the detriment of sellers and condemns Amazon’s use of third-party data to inform its own private label merchandise line. Last year, the newspaper reported on Amazon employees using third-party data for sellers on their website to launch their own private label lines, violating domestic policy.

Amazon later launched an investigation into the practice. Speaking to Congress, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said, “I can’t guarantee you that this policy has never been violated.”

If a structural unbundling bill were to be passed, Amazon could have to split its business into two separate websites, one for third-party markets and one for first-party ones, or abandon or stop selling its own products. Amazon’s private division has dozens of brands with 158,000 products. It is also the market leader for devices such as Kindle eReaders, Amazon Echos, Fire TV streaming devices, doorbells and a line of wearables.

Amazon did not immediately comment on the proposed legislation. In the past, the Seattle company said that “big companies are not dominant by definition, and the presumption that success can only be the result of anti-competitive behavior is simply wrong.”

Other proposals circulating on Capitol Hill also aim to change U.S. antitrust laws in response to the alleged dominance of large technology companies.

Another bill targets self-preference, a practice in which a company uses a dominant platform or exclusive access to data to take advantage of other areas of its business, such as favoring its own products or services in search results. This could affect the way Amazon conducts its retail business and Apple’s app store.

Congress has blocked or reversed the expansion of large companies before. Although the separation of investment and commercial banks in the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933 was abolished, banks were still restricted from non-financial business under the Banking Company Act of 1956. The Hepburn Act of 1906 restricted railways from ancillary enterprises. such as coal mining.

Absent from congressional action, technology critics are turning to federal agencies. Google and Facebook are already fighting antitrust cases, while Amazon and Apple are under antitrust investigation. Democrats from the Federal Trade Commission also want to examine the agency’s powers to regulate unfair competition methods, although this body is relatively untested and may face legal challenges.

All four companies defended their competitive practices and stated that they manage their products and services for the benefit of customers.

Google, Facebook and Apple did not respond immediately to requests for comment.

Write to Dana Matioli at dana.mattioli@wsj.com and Ryan Tracy at ryan.tracy@wsj.com

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