Gafa Monopoly: The Explosive Report of the US Congress

The Gafa knew the charge would be tough, but not necessarily so hard. After sixteen months of investigation and the media hearings of July, the antitrust committee of the House of Representatives delivered Tuesday its report on the “anticompetitive practices” of Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon. And the least we can say is that the text is more than explosive … On 449 pages, the thirteen American elected officials point to the numerous abuses of the Tech giants accused of being in a “monopoly” situation “(Facebook and Google), or to have” significant and lasting market power “(Apple and Amazon).

To correct this situation, the report, which has not been signed by the Republicans, proposes several measures that will still have to be adopted by Congress: the possibility of dismantling platforms, prohibiting the tech giants from giving preference to their own products or create barriers to the acquisition of certain start-ups … “These companies have too much power, and this power must be contained and be subject to control and law enforcement Our economy and democracy depend on it “, write the deputies, stressing that the giants of Silicon Valley have never been so” powerful “.

 

In a long-awaited 449-page report, published on Tuesday, October 6, the House of Representatives antitrust subcommittee offers a cocktail of powerful remedies. He dares to propose to break these companies with “structural separations”: Google could be forced to no longer control its search engine or the Android environment, Facebook should give up Instagram or WhatsApp, Amazon no longer sell its products on its marketplace and Apple to choose between its services and its application store App Store… However, all the palliatives proposed in this report, carried by the Democrats, require legislative changes that are difficult to vote on in the current American political context.

” Conflict of interest ”
“In the area of ​​competition in the United States, we have not seen a political inquiry and proposal with such ambition and tone for forty-five years. It’s almost a manifesto, “said William Kovacic, a former member of the US competition authority FTC (Federal Trade Commission). In 1976, the rules for controlling corporate takeovers were tightened, recalls the professor at Georgetown University in Washington.

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In this report, the separation of Internet activities is compared to the Glass-Steagall Act, which in the 1930s separated retail banking from investment banking. The text also cites the railway or telecoms sectors. The web giants would put themselves in a “conflict of interest” by operating both as “dominant middleman” and competitors of companies that depend on them as middlemen. Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple could thus be prohibited from entering certain markets or be required to separate their activities by selling them or operating them in silos. Such a dismantling of GAFA was championed by Democratic nomination contestant Elizabeth Warren but has since been less prominent in the debates.

US officials also advocate rules to prevent platforms from “favoritism and self-promotion of their own services.” Like Google, which has promoted its comparator Google Shopping on its search engine, or Apple, accused of pushing its music service on its app store. The Americans here join the European Commission, which wants to introduce “non-favoritism” in its reform of the Digital Services Act.

Do not “lock up” users
Large digital platforms would also be required to be “interoperable”, without “locking up” users: a seller could transfer their data from Amazon to another platform, Facebook should allow other messengers to communicate with its services (as the company has just done between its Messenger and Instagram networks).

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The sub-committee is also proposing to make business buyouts more difficult. He wants to “reverse the burden of proof” because the Internet giants have swallowed about 500 companies without refusal from the authorities: the buyer would have to prove that the transaction does not harm competition. More broadly, the report wishes to “restore the anti-monopoly vocation of antitrust” by overturning forty years of American competition law, deemed too lax and too focused on “the good of the consumer”.