Are U.S. laws tough enough to curb monopolies?
While technology giants such as Amazon, Google and Facebook deliver low prices and innovative products to consumers, their growing dominance is raising concerns that they may stifle competition in the markets where they operate. Congressional Democrats, some legal experts and even President Trump have questioned whether they represent new forms of monopolistic behavior and whether century-old U.S. antitrust laws are sufficient to keep them in check. Other experts argue the laws have withstood the test of time, can be successfully applied across all industries and sufficiently protect consumers. They also say market forces will prevent monopolies and anticompetitive behavior, because only firms that offer competitive prices, excellent products and other efficiencies succeed.
Key takeaways include:
Technology companies such as Amazon pose a conundrum in the antitrust arena. While they edge out competitors across a host of industries, they provide benefits to consumers through lower prices, convenience and an abundance of high-quality products.
U.S. officials enforcing antitrust laws increasingly apply a standard of ensuring “consumer welfare,” turning away from a previous policy of protecting smaller competitors.
The tempo of corporate mergers has increased in recent years, reaching a record-setting level of $5 trillion globally in 2015.
Resources for Further Study
Patterson, Mark R., “Antitrust Law in the New Economy: Google, Yelp, LIBOR, and the Control of Information,” Harvard University Press, 2017. A Fordham University School of Law professor argues antitrust law should be adapted to the information economy and shows the ways courts could apply antitrust to address today’s problems.
Teece, David J., “Competing Through Innovation: Technology Strategy and Antitrust Policies,” Edward Elgar Publishing, 2013. A business professor at the University of California, Berkeley, suggests businesses and policymakers can adapt to technological advances and other shifts in the global business landscape by fostering “next-generation” competition policies.
Buchholz, Todd G., and Victoria J. Buchholz, “In the age of Uber and Snapchat, antitrust law needs an update,” Los Angeles Times, Feb. 9, 2017, http://tinyurl.com/
Khan, Lina, “Amazon’s Antitrust Paradox,” Yale Law Journal, Jan. 31, 2017, http://tinyurl.com/
Pethokoukis, James, “On ‘hipster antitrust’: The rush to heavily regulate or even dismantle Big Tech is really premature,” American Enterprise Institute, Sept. 28, 2017, http://tinyurl.com/
Weigel, David, “Breaking from tech giants, Democrats consider becoming an antimonopoly party,” The Washington Post, Sept. 4, 2017, http://tinyurl.com/
Reports and Studies
“Halfway through 2017: With no dramatic shifts, deals on track for a steady year,” PricewaterhouseCoopers, June 2017, http://tinyurl.com/
Hataway, C. Scott, and Michael S. Wise, “The Antitrust Review of the Americas 2016,” Paul Hastings LLP, March 18, 2016, https://tinyurl.com/
Mehta, Mihir N., Suraj Srinivasan and Wanli Zhao, “Political Influence and Merger Antitrust Reviews,” SSRN, Sept. 13, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/
The Next Step
Chung, Andrew, “U.S. top court asks Justice Department for views in Apple antitrust case,” Reuters, Oct. 10, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/
Manjoo, Farhad, “Can Washington Stop Big Tech Companies? Don’t Bet on It,” The New York Times, Oct. 25, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/
McLaughlin, David, “Tech’s New Monopolies,” Bloomberg, Sept. 27, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/
Alexis, Alexei, “Rep. Goodlatte ‘Open’ to Antitrust Fix for Policing Internet,” Bloomberg BNA, Nov. 1, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/
Crampton, Liz, “Global Enforcement, Tech Tactics Are New for Antitrust Chief,” Bloomberg BNA, Sept. 28, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/
Kang, Cecilia, “Trump Picks Joseph Simons, Corporate Antitrust Lawyer, to Lead F.T.C.,” The New York Times, Oct. 19, 2017, https://tinyurl.com/
American Antitrust Institute
1025 Connecticut Ave., N.W., Suite 1000, Washington, DC 20036
Nonprofit organization that advocates for antitrust enforcement and competition that protects consumers and businesses.
American Bar Association, Antitrust Law Section
321 N. Clark St., Chicago, IL 60654-7598
Trade group representing the legal industry has a division that focuses on antitrust law.
1000 Massachusetts Ave., N.W., Washington, DC 20001
Think tank that supports limited government and open markets.
Federal Trade Commission
600 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W., Washington, DC 20580
Federal agency that enforces antitrust laws and reviews potential mergers, challenging those that it regards as anti-competitive.
Information Technology Industry Council
1101 K St., N.W., Suite 610, Washington, DC 20005
Trade group whose members include Amazon, Google and Facebook.
740 15th St., N.W., Suite 900, Washington, DC 20005
A liberal-leaning think tank funded in part by Google that studies the economy, trade, anti-monopoly laws and other issues.
U.S. Department of Justice, Antitrust Division
950 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W., Washington, DC 20530
Federal department that enforces antitrust laws, including prosecuting violators.