Amazon Hits Out At US Congress Antitrust Bill

Amazon has lashed out at a competition bill in the United States, that is being contested by a number of big name tech firms.

The amended American Innovation and Choice Online Act was introduced by Senators Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat, and Chuck Grassley, a Republican. It seeks to ban tech giants from giving preference to their own businesses on their websites.

In 2021 it passed the US Congress House Judiciary Committee last year, and in January it also passed the Senate Judiciary Committee, despite hefty lobbying from top executives such as Apple CEO Tim Cook who apparently spent 40 minutes on the phone with Republican Senator Ted Cruz.

Image credit: Amazon

American Innovation and Choice Online Act

Tim Cook was concerned the bill could make it harder for Apple to allow users to opt out of app monitoring.

On the surface the bill has significant implications for Amazon, Apple and Google in particular.

The bill essentially bans dominant platforms (based on number of users, market capitalisation etc) from discriminating against other businesses that rely on its services.

For example, Amazon would not be allowed to place its own branded products higher in search rankings that listings from third parties.

Apple and Google meanwhile would not be able to rank their own apps higher than rivals in respective mobile apps stores.

The same principle would also apply to Google’s search engine results.

One of the amendments that was accepted into the bill makes it more difficult for firms such as ByteDance (owner of TikTok) to gain access to American data.

The US Senate could vote on the bill as early as this month, a number of media outlets have reported.

Amazon warning

But Amazon has warned in a blog post that the bill could have “unintended negative consequences for American consumers and small business.”

Amazon also said the bill “jeopardizes two of the things American consumers love most about Amazon: the vast selection and low prices made possible by opening our store to third-party selling partners, and the promise of fast, free shipping through Amazon Prime.”

“Legislation sponsored by Senator Amy Klobuchar, as well as nearly identical legislation in the House sponsored by Representative David Cicilline, targets just a handful of American companies- Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft – which have very different business models,” wrote Brian Huseman, Amazon VP of Public Policy.

Amazon said that unlike the others, it business model had more in common with “retailers such as Walmart, Target and Costco, all of which would be mysteriously excluded from the bill’s proposed regulations.”

“Applying the same broad, vague, and undefined language to all of these different market segments to regulate what are in fact very different companies would cause serious and damaging unintended consequences for American consumers and small businesses the bills purport to protect,” Huseman wrote.

He said the recent amendments put forth by Sen. Klobuchar last week, “do nothing to address the most serious concerns with the bill.”

“In 2021, Walmart had annual revenues of $559 billion, nearly $90 billion more than Amazon,” wrote Huseman, who also made the pointed that Target, which has revenues of $106 billion and is headquartered in Sen. Klobuchar’s home state of Minnesota is also excluded.

“As one of the nation’s largest retailers, we understand our success invites scrutiny,” said Huseman. “We also understand that such scrutiny can bring calls for new regulations.”

“If Congress believes that the highly competitive retail industry needs regulation, we welcome the opportunity to engage in identifying and addressing legitimate concerns lawmakers may have,” wrote Huseman. “But the proposed bills that Congress is now considering, which attempt to broadly cover five companies, each with a vastly different business model, should be reconsidered.”

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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