To ensure a future of shared prosperity for consumers, workers, and businesses large and small, America must guarantee open and fair competition. Our history shows that competitive markets support business growth, innovation, and an entrepreneurial spirit, leaving room for small, independent businesses to flourish alongside larger corporations. Competition means that businesses offer high-quality products and services at fair market prices. It helps workers get fairer wages and better working conditions. And competitive markets encourage start-ups and business creation, while forcing existing companies to innovate and become more efficient. When businesses and entrepreneurs can freely compete, our economy grows stronger.
Unfortunately, America has a major monopoly and competition problem. In fact, over 75 percent of U.S. industries have become more concentrated in the last twenty years. This is a problem that touches the lives of every American and affects our entire economy, from pharmaceuticals to big tech, agriculture to telecommunications. Reduced competition can mean higher prices, lower product and service quality, depressed wages, and less innovation for millions of American consumers and workers. This can have an especially devastating impact during times of economic uncertainty. It is a problem that we can no longer afford to ignore.
To ensure our future economic prosperity, America must confront its monopoly power problem and restore competitive markets. That means we need more effective congressional oversight to promote vigorous antitrust enforcement, while giving federal enforcers the resources and tools they need. And we must update our antitrust laws for the twenty-first century to protect the competitive markets that are the lifeblood of our economy.
We don’t have to choose between having successful American companies and having effective antitrust enforcement. We can, and must, have both. Strong competition policy is necessary to build a vibrant economy that works for consumers, for workers, for entrepreneurs, for local communities, and for companies, large and small.
As Minnesota’s U.S. senator, I will continue to focus on these priorities:
- Effective oversight over enforcement of the antitrust laws. During my time as Chair and Ranking Member of the Senate’s Competition Policy, Antitrust, and Consumer Rights Subcommittee, I have worked to ensure that the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division and the Federal Trade Commission actively enforce the antitrust laws and protect consumers and our national economy against excessive consolidation and harmful anticompetitive conduct. I successfully worked with Senator Mike Lee of Utah to provide oversight of our antitrust agencies under presidents of both parties, holding agencies accountable and encouraging vigorous investigations of potentially anticompetitive mergers. Over the last few years, Senator Lee and I have chaired hearings examining the impact of consolidation in areas as widespread as the live event ticketing, prescription drugs, digital platforms, mobile telecommunications networks, beer distribution, agriculture, healthcare, infant formula, as well as the impact of proposed mergers between companies like the Kroger and Albertsons grocery stores chains.
Senator Lee and I called on the Justice Department to investigate and take action on Ticketmaster’s ticketing fees and monopolistic conduct. We also pushed the Department of Justice to ensure that consumers could access video content over the internet as a condition of the Department’s review of Charter Communications’ acquisition of Time-Warner Cable. When food delivery companies Uber Eats and GrubHub were contemplating a merger at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, I led a group of senators calling for an antitrust investigation, and the companies abandoned merger talks. I continue to lead calls for investigations into the business practices of the dominant digital platforms, and I strongly support the federal and state antitrust lawsuits against Google and Facebook.
- Funding effective enforcement. Antitrust laws provide the first line of defense against transactions and discriminatory conduct that harm consumers and competition. The Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission enforce those laws, but they need the tools to meet today’s challenges. Our competition enforcers don’t have enough resources to effectively take on multi-billion dollar—much less trillion-dollar—companies. That is why I introduced the bipartisan Merger Filing Fee Modernization Act with Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa, updating merger filing fees for the first time since 2001 by lowering fees on smaller acquisitions, increasing them for the largest mergers, and bringing in $1.4 billion over 5 years for the antitrust agencies. After provisions based on the bill were included in the year-end legislative package in December 2022, I worked across the aisle to ensure that the new fees would take effect in 2023 by filing an amendment that passed by a vote of 88-8.
- Updating the antitrust laws to protect and foster competitive markets. As Chair of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Competition Policy, Antitrust, and Consumer Rights, I am working to restore the original purpose of our antitrust laws: promote competition and protect American consumers. With rapid consolidation and anticompetitive practices across a broad spectrum of industries, we need to update America’s antitrust laws for our modern economy and crack down on anticompetitive mergers and conduct. That’s why I introduced the Competition and Antitrust Law Enforcement Reform Act to give federal enforcers the resources they need to do their jobs, strengthen prohibitions on anticompetitive conduct and mergers, and make additional reforms to improve enforcement. It also improves the agencies’ ability to assess the impact of merger settlements, creates a new division at the Federal Trade Commission to look back at old mergers, and requires in-depth studies of new issues. The bill’s broad range of reforms will improve antitrust enforcement and strengthen our nation’s economy.
- Preventing harmful consolidation. Consolidation within an industry can stifle competition, increase consumer prices, reduce employment options for workers, and reduce incentives to innovate and start new businesses. The American economy is currently experiencing a wave of consolidation across many of our industries, including telecommunications, airlines, beer, agriculture, hospitals and many more. The Competition and Antitrust Law Enforcement Reform Act restores the original purpose of the Clayton Antitrust Act to prevent the harms that excessive consolidation can inflict on competition and consumers. It updates the legal standard to strengthen enforcers’ ability to prevent mergers that risk harming competition or are likely to create a monopoly or a monopsony. In addition, the legislation shifts the legal burden from enforcers to the merging companies for certain categories of mergers that pose significant risks to competition, including mergers that significantly increase market concentration, acquisitions by dominant companies of competitors, and the largest mega-mergers. The merging company would then have to prove that the merger does not create an appreciable risk of materially lessening competition or tend to create a monopoly or monopsony.
- Combating anticompetitive business practices. American antitrust law enforcement efforts against powerful companies have lagged behind steps taken by other countries. Harmful exclusionary practices by dominant companies—like refusing to deal with rivals, restrictive contracting, and predatory pricing—reduce competition and harm consumers, workers, and businesses. For decades, courts have also interpreted our antitrust laws in ways that restrict the steps enforcers can take to limit this kind of conduct in our economy. The Competition and Antitrust Law Enforcement Reform Act prohibits conduct that disadvantages competitors or limits their opportunity to compete, which presents a risk of harming competition. Anticompetitive companies need to be put on notice that there will be serious financial consequences for harmful anticompetitive behavior. That is why my legislation gives the Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission the authority to seek civil penalties for anticompetitive exclusionary conduct offenses under the antitrust laws, a power they currently do not have. These proposals will increase the ability of federal enforcers to deter large companies from leveraging their power over markets to hurt competition, consumers, and innovation in our economy.
- Addressing competition issues in key industries. I continue to work to keep our markets competitive so that consumers, small businesses, and workers benefit and not monopolies. We are seeing industry consolidation across much of our economy. We see it in agriculture and health care and in online travel--where consumers see many travel sites without realizing that most of them are owned by two companies. We see it in everything from cat food to caskets.
- Dominant Digital Platforms. The size and rapid growth of dominant digital platforms have given them unprecedented control over our personal data and market power. We see this in digital advertising, e-commerce, social media, mobile applications and operating systems, and many other markets. Many of these companies have also leveraged their wealth to buy out emerging competitors before they become competitive threats. They have also used their power to limit the ability of rivals to compete. Our existing antitrust laws don’t address all of the issues these large technology companies pose. That’s why I introduced the American Innovation and Choice Online Act with Senator Grassley and senators of both parties. The bill would stop dominant online platforms from putting their own products ahead of competing products without good cause and restore fairness to our online markets. The bill moved through the Senate Judiciary Committee with a bipartisan 16-6 vote last year. It is the first tech related antitrust bill to pass out of the Committee since the dawn of the internet. My Competition and Antitrust Law Enforcement Reform Act will also enhance the ability of competition enforcers to hold these technology companies accountable.
I also joined with Senators Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee to introduce the Open App Markets Act, which promotes competition in the app store marketplace by preventing the dominant gatekeepers from locking out competitors.
We’ve seen deeply concerning evidence of how social media platforms use addictive algorithms to increase their profits at the expense of families, our community, and our democracy. That’s why I introduced the Platform Accountability and Transparency Act with Senators Christopher Coons of Delaware, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, and former Senator Rob Portman of Ohio, to give researchers access to study how these algorithms work and help us hold social media companies accountable. I also joined Senators Mark Warner of Virginia and Mazie Hirono of Hawaii to introduce the SAFE TECH Act that would allow these platforms to face consequences for ads and content that can lead to cyber-stalking, harassment, and discrimination, without interfering with free speech by limiting the platforms’ immunity from lawsuits. To strengthen efforts to hold big tech accountable, I worked with Senator Mike Lee of Utah to help states more effectively enforce the antitrust laws by allowing them to keep enforcement actions in the courts where they are filed and by ensuring their cases are not consolidated with private lawsuits. The bill passed the Senate with unanimous bipartisan support and was signed into law in December 2022.
- Local News. As news publishers are being crushed by big digital platforms, we must give them the tools needed to negotiate fair compensation for their news content. My bipartisan legislation with Senator John Kennedy of Louisiana, the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act, will set up a framework for good faith joint negotiations between news outlets and dominant digital platforms, to level the playing field for local media outlets. It will reinvigorate the free and independent press that serves our local communities and plays a vital role in our democracy. Last year the Senate Judiciary Committee, on a bipartisan basis, voted to advance the bill.
- Ticketing. While the event ticket marketplace has grown more sophisticated through the use of secure online distribution channels and ticket technology, many ticket buyers can still be victims of fraud. That’s why I cosponsored the bipartisan Better Online Ticket Sales (BOTS) Act, signed into law in December 2016. The law prohibits the use of ticket bots and other online measures to deliberately circumvent security protocols that limit or restrict online ticket purchases. As a member of the Senate Commerce Committee, I will continue to be a leader in protecting consumers from ticket bots.
I also called on the Justice Department to investigate the state of competition in the online ticketing marketplace following reports that Live Nation was not complying with the consent decree that allowed it to merge with Ticketmaster. After I and others raised these concerns, the Department went to court to force Live Nation to extend the terms of the decree for an additional five and a half years and to impose additional monitoring requirements and penalty provisions to prevent future noncompliance. In the aftermath of Ticketmaster’s failure to manage the sale of tickets to the latest Taylor Swift concert series, I demanded answers from Ticketmaster about the lack of competition in the ticketing industry and what they are doing to provide the best service they can to consumers. I led a bipartisan hearing at which the President of Live Nation/Ticketmaster and other witnesses answered questions, under oath, about how the company’s control of the ticketing market impacts consumers, artists, and venues. Senator Lee and I have called on the Justice Department to take action against Ticketmaster and the sworn testimony from the hearing will help inform an investigation. I am also working on bipartisan legislation to address the harms that consumers are experiencing and the lack of transparency in ticket sales by requiring some basic disclosures for ticket resellers and other common sense rules.
- Pharmaceuticals. Competition guarantees that consumers pay fair prices, while driving product improvements and innovation. This is especially true in prescription drug markets. Over the years, however, large branded pharmaceutical companies have come up with a number of strategies to delay competition and keep drug prices sky high. When companies do not play by the rules, consumers pay the price. With Senator Grassley, I called on the Federal Trade Commission to stop anticompetitive actions in the pharmaceutical industry that raise prescription drug costs. Together, we introduced the Preserve Access to Affordable Generics and Biosimilars Act to help end the practice of brand-name drug manufacturers paying off their less-expensive generic competitors to stay out of the market. We introduced the Stop STALLING Act to increase access to affordable prescription drugs by reducing the incentives for large pharmaceutical companies to file sham petitions with the Food and Drug Administration that interfere with the approval of generic drugs. These bills would save consumers and the government hundreds of millions of dollars, and this Congress, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to advance both bills with a bipartisan voice vote. With a bipartisan group of senators, I also introduced the CREATES Act, which became law in December 2019, to end tactics that some brand-name companies used to prevent generic drug manufacturers from being able to receive approval for their products and compete in the market. I have also cosponsored legislation to prevent pharmaceutical companies from harmful “product hopping” in which they cause patients to switch from drugs available in generic form to drugs the companies have the exclusive right to sell so they can charge exorbitant prices. These bills will help to reduce the skyrocketing costs of prescription drugs and ensure appropriate access. [See Health Care]