The House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday will markup the “Investigation of Competition in Digital Markets” report spearheaded by Antitrust Subcommittee Chairman David Cicilline (D-R.I.).
The report is nothing more than a Democrat attempt to reshape decades of antitrust law to the detriment of American competition and innovation.
Not a single Republican joined the report when it was initially released, and Republicans should remain opposed to the left’s attempts to weaponize antitrust law.
ATR stands in opposition to both the findings and recommendations of this report which recommends restricting tech companies from operating in multiple markets and altering how antitrust enforcement can be brought against suspected violators.
Alarmingly, the Cicilline report argues that Courts judging antitrust enforcement on the “narrow” basis of consumer welfare have significantly weakened antitrust laws over the past decades. One proposed solution is to rewrite existing laws to essentially nullify the consumer welfare standard, which would cripple American free enterprise and innovation.
Under the consumer welfare standard, business conduct is evaluated on whether or not it harms consumers through tangible factors such as higher prices or reduced quality or output. If consumers are not being harmed, antitrust enforcement action is not taken. The consumer welfare standard, which provides a rule-of-law approach to antitrust enforcement, has undergirded antitrust law for over four decades.
Before the consumer welfare standard was widely adopted, antitrust law was vague and unfocused, leading to inconsistent rulings and enforcement actions designed to punish political enemies or reward political allies. Abandoning the consumer welfare standard would only serve to politicize the antitrust enforcement process and empower faceless bureaucrats and trial lawyers to target companies they do not like with frivolous monopolization litigation.
After the report was first published in October, ATR President Grover Norquist said the following:
These recommendations pursue political prerogatives rather than consider what is truly best for all Americans. It is not good for all Americans if breaking up a firm means prices go up 20%. Nor is it good if those experiencing food insecurity are cut off from innovative food delivery services. Small business is not better off without a digital main street to compete with Big Box retailers physical and digital store fronts. Smart phone users could choose a fully open system, but most think they are better off when their devices and app stores secure their payment data. We were not better off when GPS systems led our car to a dead-end road or the edge of a lake.
Ahead of Wednesday’s markup, it is important to keep in mind the Cicilline report remains a tool to increase the power of government bureaucrats to gain power at the expense of American innovation and competition. Every Republican rightly stood against the Cicilline report when it was first published. No Republicans should support the report after the markup.