Big Tech, Consumer Advocates Warn Senate Antitrust Bill Could Hurt Amazon Prime

Members of major technology corporations including Amazon, Apple, and Google, as well as leading consumer advocacy groups, are warning that the Senate’s bipartisan antitrust bill concerning recommendations on online platforms could harm Amazon’s Prime service and small businesses.

The American Innovation and Choice Online Act, or AICOA, would restrict these companies’ ability to favor their own products. It would disallow Amazon from using internal data to recreate existing products or from over-promoting its own products. It would also prevent Apple from levying a 30% fee on apps to use the App Store, and Google from favoring its services in search results.

The companies, and some consumer advocate groups, say that this could hurt Amazon Prime shipping and the company’s Basics line of products, as well as small businesses who rely on these companies’ platforms.

Two officials from the American Consumer Institute Center for Citizen Research, a nonpartisan public policy think tank, wrote in an opinion piece for The Hill earlier this week that the bill “could cause irreparable harm to American consumers and small businesses who depend on unimpeded access to online marketplaces operated by big tech platforms.”

The Connected Commerce Council’s Rob Retzlaff, who heads a group that receives funding from Amazon and Google and represents thousands of small companies, told the Los Angeles Times that “Congress seems to be out of touch with the current reality. The focus Congress should be having is working with small businesses to help them recover from the pandemic, but these bills are creating more uncertainty when their main concern is staying in business.”

A policy staffer for the bill’s co-sponsor Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, dismissed these claims as “a disingenuous, fake grassroots campaign Amazon and others have created to kill the bill,” in a statement to the Washington Examiner. “It’s a smart lobbying and spin strategy, but it’s not accurate.”

The staffer added that the bill is aimed at specific anti-competitive behavior by these companies, saying that it is not a major overhaul of antitrust laws.

A spokesperson for Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., the bill’s other co-sponsor, told the Examiner that “harm to competition can be assessed in a number of ways, including, but not limited to, impacts on output in the market, the diversity of products available, innovation, price, and other aspects of consumers’ experience.”

They added that “Competition enforcers and courts deal with such competition metrics every day.”

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