10 Mar 2023

Restore Competition to Digital Markets by Passing Antitrust Reform Bill, ROCC Co-Founder and U.S. Competition Policy Director Amanda Lewis Testifies to Senate Panel

Congress should stand up to Big Tech giants and pass bipartisan antitrust reform legislation to restore competition on digital platforms like Amazon, Amanda Lewis, partner at Cuneo Gilbert & LaDuca LLP, told a Senate panel on March 7.

“Under current law, the deck is stacked in favor of the platforms,” Lewis said in testimony before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Competition Policy, Antitrust, and Consumer Rights. “Amazon is putting its thumb on the scale to distort competition.”

Speaking in her personal capacity and not on behalf of any clients, Lewis urged passage of the American Innovation and Choice Online Act (AICOA), saying new antitrust tools are needed to address online abuses of power in today’s digital marketplace, which is dominated by “just a handful of online gatekeeper platforms” who set the rules.

AICOA would help third-party sellers who “are terrified of the degree to which Amazon has complete control over their economic livelihood and the power to essentially eliminate it overnight,” Lewis told Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), who chairs the subcommittee. A key provision of AICOA “prohibits retaliation when businesses of all sizes and individuals” raise concerns about Amazon’s anticompetitive practices, Lewis said.

AICOA is far more efficient and effective at countering the monopoly power of online companies than relying on court challenges, according to Lewis. The “unique challenges of digital markets plus the time and resource-intensive nature of litigation make this an inefficient, and also possibly ineffective, tool for the job,” Lewis said in written testimony.

In comments to the legal experts and professors who testified along with Lewis, Klobuchar asserted that AICOA was crafted to focus “solely on addressing digital platform competition issues, but that of course hasn’t stopped the bill’s opponents from raising dubious arguments related to free speech.” In response, Lewis called such contentions “divisive distractions,” and said AICOA would have no impact on platform content moderation.

In response to a question from subcommittee member Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Lewis said that important lessons can be learned from the enactment in the European Union of the Digital Markets Act (DMA), a regulation aimed at promoting competition in the digital economy and prohibiting large online companies from abusing their market power.

The DMA showed that reining in the dominant digital platforms and stopping the abuse of market power over businesses and consumers is entirely possible “without breaking these products and services that consumers love. These two things are in no way mutually exclusive.”

Rep. David N. Cicilline (D-RI), Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY), Rep. Lance Gooden (R-TX), and Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO) introduced AICOA in June 2021, and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Sen. Grassley (R-IA) introduced a companion bill in the U.S. Senate the same year.

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