Contact: James Arnold or Mary Collins Atkinson (202) 224-2353
November 5, 2021 

Cotton, Klobuchar Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Protect Competition and Consumer Choice Online

The Platform Competition and Opportunity Act will help stop anticompetitive mergers and acquisitions by dominant online platforms

Washington, D.C. — Senators Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota) introduced bipartisan legislation to prevent monopolistic big tech firms from making killer acquisitions that harm competition and eliminate consumer choice. Bill text may be found here. A one-pager about the bill may be found here.

“Big tech firms have bought up rivals to crush their competition, expand their monopolistic market share, and to harm working Americans. That’s bad for America. Under this bill, the largest tech monopolies will have the burden of proving that further acquisitions are lawful and good for the American people,” said Cotton. 

“Competition is critical to protecting workers and consumers and spurring innovation. But today, we’re increasingly seeing companies choose to buy their rivals rather than compete,” said Klobuchar. “This bipartisan legislation will put an end to those anticompetitive acquisitions by making it more difficult for dominant digital platforms to eliminate their competitors and enhance the platform’s market power. It’s past time to address our nation’s monopoly problem and modernize our antitrust laws for the digital economy.”

“For years, American Principles Project has been urging Congress to do everything in its power to rein in the power of Big Tech. We are thrilled that Senator Cotton has taken the lead on this important issue. This bill will make it more difficult for these Big Tech companies to engage in predatory mergers and acquisitions, which will help promote a free and fair market where consumers benefit because innovation and competition are finally allowed to flourish. We encourage Republicans in both the House and Senate to take a serious look at this bill and consider providing support,” said Jon Schweppe, Director of Policy and Government Affairs, American Principles Project.

“Free markets only work if there’s competition. Trillion-dollar Big Tech monopolists like Amazon, Google, Facebook and Apple use their staggering market power to buy start-ups that could threaten their dominance. This unfair and abusive practice prevents competition, crushes small businesses, harms consumers and leads to a decline in innovation. The Internet Accountability Project applauds the leadership of Senators Cotton and Klobuchar for their bipartisan legislation to put the burden on Big Tech to prove their acquisitions won't strengthen their monopolistic market share while still allowing for due process and a day in court,” said Mike Davis, President and Founder, Internet Accountability Project.

“If Facebook hadn’t been able to acquire WhatsApp, consumers would still be able to choose between WhatsApp’s privacy-first, 99-cents-a-year subscription service and Facebook’s personal data collection and exploitation-based service.  This bill would make it more likely that consumers have access to diverse innovative services that challenge Big Tech’s way of doing business. The bill would require corporations running the largest online platforms to justify big acquisitions, making it harder for them to simply buy and neuter competitors, and further raise entry barriers,” said Sumit Sharma, Senior Researcher, Tech Competition at Consumer Reports.

“Right on the heels of the American Innovation and Choice Online Act, the Platform Competition and Opportunity Act of 2021 is another strong, bipartisan solution for addressing a piece of the Big Tech puzzle. Senators Klobuchar and Cotton should be applauded for this targeted bill to combat one of the major strategies Big Tech uses to entrench its dominance: mergers and acquisitions. With a bill like this in place, truly innovative ideas that are disruptive to the Big Tech status quo will have a chance to flourish. This bill is an important step towards a better internet for users and small businesses alike, free from Big Tech’s control,” said Charlotte Slaiman, Competition Policy Director at Public Knowledge.

“For too long, the tech giants have been allowed to use predatory mergers to eliminate their competitors, seize control of pivotal new technologies, and expand their dominance. Big Tech’s track record of unimpeded acquisitions offers one of the most glaring examples of how current antitrust policy has failed America’s entrepreneurs and small businesses. We applaud this bi-partisan effort, led by Senators Klobuchar and Cotton, to stand up to Big Tech by introducing legislation that would end these anti-competitive acquisitions and help usher in a more dynamic and innovative economy. Together with other measures, including structural separation and the nondiscrimination legislation, the Platform Competition and Opportunity Act of 2021 will rein in the tech giants’ monopoly power and safeguard the well-being of independent businesses, workers, and local communities,” said Stacy Mitchell, Co-Director at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance.

“We applaud Sens. Klobuchar and Cotton for developing bi-partisan legislation that aims to prevent platform monopolists from cementing and augmenting their already dangerous levels of power. This bill is an important step toward ensuring that Big Tech platforms cannot continue to fortify and expand their dominance through acquisition, or to eliminate competitive threats simply by buying them. Absent congressional action, platform monopolists will continue to manipulate commerce and communications in ways that threaten our democracy and wreak havoc on the free press, workers, communities, and small businesses across the country.  We look forward to working closely with Sen. Klobuchar and other partners to further strengthen this bill, and other legislative efforts to loosen Big Tech’s concentrated control of America’s critical infrastructure of speech and commerce,” said Barry Lynn, Executive Director of the Open Markets Institute.

“Big Tech monopolies have shamelessly gobbled up hundreds of potential competitors over the last decade. Even when faced with historic antitrust enforcement, they have continued to pursue anticompetitive acquisitions. The answer is to make clear that predatory behavior – like Facebook’s acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp – will no longer be tolerated. This legislation will do just that and is an important step towards reining in the power of these companies that believe they should be above the law. We are encouraged by the bipartisan interest in this important issue and appreciate the leadership of Sen. Klobuchar to take on the Big Tech monopolies,” said Alex Harman, Competition Policy Advocate at Public Citizen.

A bipartisan group led by Representative Hakeem Jeffries (D-New York), House Antitrust Subcommittee Chairman David N. Cicilline (D-Rhode Island), and Ranking Member Ken Buck (R-Colorado) introduced a similar version of the bill in the House, which was voted out of the House Judiciary Committee.

At a moment when the digital economy has become highly concentrated and prone to monopolization, the Platform Competition and Opportunity Act will halt further harmful consolidation by:

  1. Giving antitrust enforcers stronger authority to stop acquisitions by dominant platforms that primarily serve to kill competitive threats or enhance the platform’s monopoly power, including acquisitions:
    1. Of direct competitors;
    2. That reinforce or expand a platform’s market position;
    3. Of potential competitors; and
    4. Of data that strengthen or expand a platform’s dominance.
  2. Shifting the burden in merger enforcement to dominant platforms to demonstrate the merger is not anticompetitive.
  3. Striking the appropriate balance for merger enforcement in digital markets by permitting dominant platforms to make acquisitions that do not threaten competition or enhance monopoly power.