“It’s this simple: companies, just because they’re dominant platforms, shouldn’t be able to put their own stuff in front of everyone else”
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Chairwoman of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Competition Policy, Antitrust, and Consumer Rights, led Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) in a series of floor speeches on the need to pass the American Innovation and Choice Online Act.
“It’s this simple: companies, just because they’re dominant platforms, shouldn’t be able to put their own stuff in front of everyone else that advertises on their platform. They shouldn't be able to steal ideas and data...And they shouldn't be able to, because they're dominant platforms, tell people that advertise, ‘Hey, if you want to get your stuff near the top of the search engine then you're going to have to buy a whole bunch of things from us,’” Klobuchar began.
Following her colleagues’ floor speeches, Klobuchar summarized what her legislation will accomplish: “A fairer playing field for small and medium businesses. More options, more flexibility, and more access to markets and fostering entrepreneurship for the new kids on the block.”
Mr. President, I look forward to responding to my colleague in the future, but I can tell you that people I know around the country want to see their costs go down. And that is exactly what this bill is about. It's about bringing families' costs down, from child care to taking care of loved ones, seniors, to bring down the cost of prescription drugs, something that has eluded our colleagues on the other side of the aisle, despite a lot of claims that they would do something about it. So we look forward to debating this bill and getting it done.
But Mr. President, I come to the floor today to speak on behalf of a very important piece of new legislation that is bipartisan. I introduced this bill, the American Innovation and Choice Online Act, in the last month with Senator Grassley, who is here with us today and will be here shortly, as well as my colleagues Senator Durbin, the Chair of the Judiciary Committee; Senator Lindsey Graham, the former Chair of the Judiciary Committee; Richard Blumenthal, who is here with us today; Senator John Kennedy of Louisiana; Senator Cory Booker; Senator Josh Hawley; Senator Cynthia Lummis; Senator Steve Daines; and Senator Mazie Hirono, who is here with us today; as well as Senator Mark Warner.
America has a major monopoly power problem, and nowhere is this more obvious than with tech. It is because, in part, it's 20 percent of our economy, and while we love the new jobs, the new ideas, the new technology that has come out, we all know that you can't just do nothing on privacy, do nothing on competition, and that our competition laws haven’t been updated in any serious way since the invention of the Internet.
I am here again joined by Senator Grassley. I’m going to let him go ahead of me and then turn to Senator Blumenthal and Senator Hirono and I will finish up because they have been very patient, and I so appreciate Senator Grassley’s leadership in this area, one, to make sure our agencies, the FTC, and the Department of Justice Antitrust has the funding they need with the bill that we pass through this chamber to update merger fees as well as the work that we're doing right now, so important on self-preferencing. It’s this simple: companies, just because they’re dominant platforms, shouldn’t be able to put their own stuff in front of everyone else that advertises on their platform. They shouldn't be able to steal ideas and data, and develop products off the people that are simply trying to advertise their products on the platform, and develop knockoffs, which is exactly what we know from some really good reporting from The Wall Street Journal and others has been happening. And they shouldn't be able to, because they're dominant platforms, tell people that advertise, “Hey, if you want to get your stuff near the top of the search engine then you're going to have to buy a whole bunch of things from us.”
That’s what unites us on this bill: the simple concept of competition. I turn it over to my friend, my neighbor from the state of Iowa, Senator Grassley.
Remarks following Senators Grassley, Hirono, and Blumenthal’s floor speeches:
Thank you. I want to thank my colleague, Senator Grassley, the Republican lead on this bill, Senator Blumenthal, who has done so much work in the area of competition and protection of children, and Senator Hirono, who came to the floor today, as well as our original cosponsors of this bill, with many more supporters out there, and that includes Senator Durbin, the Chair of the Judiciary Committee, Senator Lindsey Graham, the former Chair, Senator Kennedy, Senator Cory Booker, Senator Josh Hawley, Senator Lummis, and Senator Warner.
So as we noted as you heard the speakers today, this is a real-world problem -- this isn't something where the tech companies can say, just trust us, we've got this. I think anyone that heard the whistleblower a few weeks back in Commerce knows that is not true, or heard the parent I heard from last week, who told me that as she tries to protect her kids, as she tries to find the right filter, or to get them to stop clicking on a link, or doing something that’s going to expose them to bad content and bad accounts, she said she feels like it's a faucet that's on and it’s overflowing in a sink and she’s trying to mop it up and then the water just keeps coming out as she goes from kid to kid to kid. I think that pretty much sums it up for how a lot of parents feel right now. And the other thing that's going on when you have dominant platforms, and you don't have enough competition, and you can't get competitors that might have developed the bells and whistles that would have protected us from misinformation and from bad information for our kids, well, that's what happens when you’ve got dominant platforms.
And do you know what else happens to you? When you go to search for restaurant reviews, you might not be able to see what you really want to see. Instead, you get pushed towards less reputable and less informative reviews. Or when you go to try to book a flight, you might be missing out on a better deal because a certain dominant platform's own booking tool is being pushed to the top of your results. You’re basically getting ripped off. That's it, plain and simple.
It also means a dominant platform using nonpublic data, nonpublic data, stuff it gathers from you – and by the way, one example, Facebook makes $51 a quarter, a quarter, off of every one of the pages that is sitting here in front of us, off of Senator Merkley, who is patiently waiting to speak – $51 a quarter is how much they make, because they’ve got access to all this information and then the ads get targeted to us, and we don't get any of that money.
Dominant platforms using nonpublic data that they gather from small businesses can use their platforms – and this is in the retail space, we're talking here like Amazon – to build knockoff copies of their products and then compete against the people that were paying to advertise on their platform. This isn't your local grocery store chain selling store brand potato chips to compete with a brand name product. This is Amazon using incredibly detailed nonpublic information that they get from their sellers on their platform to create copycat products and box off competition from small innovators. What does it look like? In one case, an employee of Amazon's private label arm accessed a detailed sales report with 25 columns of information on a car trunk organizer produced by a small Brooklyn company called FORTEM. In October 2019, Amazon started selling three trunk organizers of its own.
When shown the collection data Amazon had gathered about its brand before launching of their own product, FORTEM's co-founder called it a big surprise. Yeah. I don’t think most of us assume that trillion dollar companies put their troves of data to work boxing small businesses out of the trunk organizer market, but it happened. That's why we’re here supporting the American Innovation and Choice Online Act. Yeah, you’ve gotta update your competition laws when they haven't been changed since the Internet was invented. What does this mean? Apple won't be able to stifle competition by blocking other companies’ services from inter-operating with their platform. Amazon won't be able to misuse small business data in order to copy their products. And Google won't be able to bias their platform search results in favor of other products, their own products. The result? A fairer playing field for small and medium businesses. More options, more flexibility, and more access to markets and fostering entrepreneurship for the new kids on the block.
And by the way, as Senator Grassley outlined, this bill does not outlaw Amazon Prime. Let's go for the lie, it does not do that. That's what they have been saying, because they want to stop this in its tracks. Or free shipping, or stop Apple from pre-loading useful apps onto their iPhones. No, no, no. This is the kind of stuff they have been saying for a while, and that's why Senator Grassley and I spent the entire summer working on this bill, to make sure it did none of that. That's why we have such broad support, because this is targeted at anticompetitive conduct. We're really excited about this bill. The positive opinions it's been getting. Boston Globe, Washington Post, “finally a promising piece of tech antitrust legislation in Congress.” I think there’s other ones, but that's what they said in their headline. So, common-sense rules of the road for major digital platforms allowing them to continue to operate their businesses. We're glad for these products. We like these products. We want to keep these companies strong, but they don't need to engage in this kind of behavior. That's why we’re here today, and we are looking very forward to getting this bill before the Judiciary Committee and passed through the Senate. Thank you, Madam President. I yield the floor.
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