US House Panel to Propose Breakup of Tech Giants, Divided Over Solutions

A House of Representatives subcommittee on antitrust is getting ready to publish a report on Apple, Amazon, Facebook, and Google following a year-long investigation.

A House panel investigating competition in the technology sector is poised to propose sweeping reforms to block giants such as Apple and Amazon from both owning marketplaces and selling their own products on them, according to a critique of the recommendations by one Republican member of the subcommittee.

A key GOP lawmaker who has been an ally to Democrats on the House Judiciary antitrust subcommittee, Rep. Ken Buck, plans to release his own report laying out “common ground” and “non-starters” for antitrust reform in technology, according to a draft copy of the report.

Buck’s report, first obtained and published by Politico, is written in response to the report led by the Democratic majority culminating a 16-month investigation into Apple, Amazon, Facebook, and Google:

Rep. Ken Buck of Colorado, a Republican on the House antitrust subcommittee, wrote in the draft memo that while he agrees with the committee’s Democratic majority that “antitrust enforcement agencies need additional resources and tools to provide proper oversight” of the tech giants, other recommendations Democrats are expected to include in the panel’s final report “are non-starters for conservatives.”

As this notes, however, there is less agreement on the proposed solutions. Disagreement seems to abound over proposals such as eliminating arbitration clauses, further opening up companies to class action lawsuits, and “advancing legislation to force structural breakups of major online platforms like Amazon.”

The investigation was launched in June 2019 as a bipartisan endeavor, and Buck has said it has remained a coordinated effort. But his report shows that even a Republican who has seemed most open to reform is reticent to endorse some of the bolder proposals Democrats are considering. The divergence leaves an opening for the powerful tech companies to oppose legislation that could place greater regulatory burdens on their businesses or even force them to break up.

“While we agree in principle with the findings identified in the report, we cannot endorse all of the legislative recommendations offered by the majority,” the draft report says. “We will work with the Chairman in a bipartisan fashion to help enact the legislative solutions where we can agree. However, we are concerned that sweeping changes could lead to overregulation and carry unintended consequences for the entire economy. We prefer a targeted approach, the scalpel of antitrust, rather than the chainsaw of regulation.”

The subcommittee’s full report on antitrust and big tech had been expected as early as Tuesday, but that has now been delayed.