Morgan’s Monopoly Digest – September 2022
September 15, 2022 Anti-Monopoly Policies & EnforcementCompetition Policy Digest
- NEW BILL TACKLES PRICE-FIXING. With economists and analysts increasingly recognizing that market power is contributing to inflation, Congresswoman Katie Porter and co-sponsors Reps. Jerry Nadler, David Cicilline, Hakeem Jeffries, and Pramila Jayapal have responded by introducing the Competitive Prices Act (CPA).In recent decades, corporate-friendly judges have undermined the ability to hold corporations accountable for fixing prices. The CPA lowers the extremely high burden of proof required to enforce the law as Congress intended.
- COMMISSIONER PHILLIPS RESIGNS. Republican FTC Commissioner Noah Phillips announced that he will leave the agency this fall. President Biden will nominate his successor based on the recommendation of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. A coalition of conservative advocacy groups sent a letter urging him to pick a nominee who will stand up to Big Tech. After Phillips steps down, the Commission will have a 3-1 Democratic majority.
Reining in Big Tech
- FTC’S DATA HEARING. As bipartisan anger at Big Tech grows, the FTC is moving forward on an anticipated rulemaking to address their invasive surveillance practices. A recent public forum featured advocates like Jason Kint who noted the importance of limiting third party data collection and use of personal information. Anyone can submit public comments to the FTC for their ANPR until October 21.
- SAVING LOCAL JOURNALISM. The U.S. has lost 1,800 newspapers since 2004, as Facebook and Google claim larger shares of the $200B online ad market. Sen. Klobuchar and the Senate Judiciary Committee held amarkup on the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act, which would force Big Tech to compensate publishers for their content. A similar law in Australia ensured publishers received $140M of adtech revenue. Read more about the JCPA debate in Fast Company.
- WHITE HOUSE RELEASES TECH PRINCIPLES. The White House released its “Principles for Enhancing Competition and Tech Platform Accountability,” which focused on children’s privacy, algorithmic transparency, and reforming Section 230. Read more about Economic Liberties’ recommended “regulated competition” approach to reining in Big Tech.
- LAWSUITS PROLIFERATE & ADVANCE. The D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine filed an appeal in the first government-led case against Amazon for controlling retail prices through third-party seller contracts. The California AG followed with their own suit this week. State AGs suing Google move towards discovery, and EU regulators upheld an earlier decision fining Google $8B for abusing Android dominance.
Improving Health Care
- FTC CALLS OUT HOSPITAL MERGER COPAs. Research shows 80% of hospital markets are highly concentrated, especially in many rural communities. Certificates of Public Advantage (COPAs) laws in 17 statesallow merging hospitals to avoid federal antitrust scrutiny, which has accelerated this consolidation. The FTC released a policy statement about COPAs’ harms, including higher costs, lower wages, and reduced quality of care, likely opening the door for further regulatory action.
- CHEAPER HEARING AIDS COMING THIS FALL. In their Executive Order, the Biden Administration took on the hearing aid cartel, which had driven costs for the devices up to nearly $5,000. The FDA’s final rule will lower prices by making hearing aids over-the-counter instead of requiring a prescription, increasing access for the more than 40 million Americans suffering from hearing loss.
Competition In Transit
- AGs WANT TO REGULATE AIRLINES. 38 bipartisan state AGs sent a letter to Congress sharply criticizing the Department of Transportation’s handling of this summer’s air travel chaos and requesting authority to hold airlines accountable. Economic Liberties followed with a letter to Secretary Buttigieg outlining steps to better protect consumers in this highly concentrated market and forestall further consolidation in the industry.
Building Worker Power
- DOJ SECURES A WIN FOR WORKERS. For years, companies in certain markets have coordinated to prevent competitors from hiring employees, which enables wage suppression. In 2016, DOJ Antitrust announced they would pursue criminal charges for such “no-poaching agreements” as violations of the Sherman Act. DOJ Antitrust recently won its first no-poach case criminal against VDA, a health care staffing company, and their executives forworking together to allocate nurse employees.
- SHIPPING GIANTS CALL OFF MERGER. The heavily concentrated shipping industry has contributed to supply chain issues and inflation. Following a DOJ investigation, China International Marine Containers Group recently announced they are abandoning their proposed acquisition of Maersk Container.
Read the August 2022 newsletter here.