After months of hearings and negotiations, pressure is mounting in the Senate to pass new laws prohibiting online platforms from prioritizing their own products and services over those of their competitors. On Thursday, a bipartisan group of senators announced plans to introduce a non-discrimination bill that could reshape Amazon’s online marketplace.
The American Choice and Innovation Online Act, led by Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA), would prevent platforms like Amazon, Apple and Google from using their dominance to disadvantage other companies and competitors who use their platforms. In June, House lawmakers rejected a bill bearing the same name from the Judicial Committee. The Senate version of Klobuchar is not identical to that of the House, but shares similar language.
This announcement follows a Wednesday Reuters report claiming that Amazon was using market research data to copy popular products and manipulate the results in favor of the company’s counterfeit products. A Thursday survey of The markup has also shown that the company places its products ahead of its competitors.
For years, third-party sellers have accused Amazon of similar behavior. The charges were part of an antitrust investigation by lawmakers on Amazon and other tech giants, which spanned several years, prompting the original bipartisan bill in the House.
“When dominant technology companies exclude their rivals and kill the competition, it hurts small businesses and can increase costs for YOU,” Klobuchar said in a tweet Thursday. “My new bipartite legislation with [Grassley] establish new rules of conduct to prevent large companies from crowding out their smaller competitors.
Outside of Amazon, the bill could also change the way Apple and Google run their app stores, prohibiting companies from giving preference to their own proprietary apps and software. Earlier this year, Apple was ordered to allow app developers to send iOS users payment options other than those offered by the iPhone maker in a case brought by Epic Games. Google faces a similar lawsuit by the Fortnite business.
At the time of posting, Representative Ken Buck (R-CO) says at least five Senate Republicans have signed the legislation, including Sens. Cynthia Lummis (WY), Josh Hawley (MO), Lindsey Graham (SC) and John Kennedy (LA). This bipartisan support marks an important step forward for lawmakers seeking to regulate online markets, showing that Republicans and Democrats are ready to work together to spur competition in the industry.
“Many ‘critics’ have called our bipartisan antitrust law ‘Democratic bills’,” Buck said in a tweet. “It was wrong then, and it is wrong now.”
Despite broad congressional support for the measure, business groups like Chamber of Progress issued statements on Thursday suggesting the bill will hurt customer experiences online, not improve them.
“Stopping Amazon from selling Amazon Basics and banning Google Maps in its search results will do nothing to improve the internet for families,” said Adam Kovacevich, founder and CEO of Chamber of Progress, Thursday. “It’s like calling an auto mechanic to fix your laptop.”
The Chamber of Progress coalition partners with tech companies like Amazon, Facebook, and Google.
Pressure is mounting for Congress to take action on online marketplaces and counterfeit products as well. Last week, House lawmakers introduced the INFORM Act, which would require platforms like Amazon to verify the identities of big sellers in order to curb the sale of counterfeit goods.
Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
- Apple’s app store changes fail to sway lawmakers concerned about overhaul
- Apple’s App Store concessions fail to address key concerns of regulators and lawmakers
- Microsoft allows Epic Games and Amazon storefronts on its app store
- US judge loosens Apple’s grip on the App Store in Epic ruling
- South Korean law requires Apple, Google to let developers bypass App Store 30% cut