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New Legislation May Force Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google to Split Up

Legislation in Congress targets 4 technology giants specifically, but not by name.
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Ending Platform Monopolies Act

The WSJ has a draft of new legislation in Congress dubbed the Ending Platform Monopolies Act.

Called the Ending Platform Monopolies Act, a draft of the proposed structural separation bill reviewed by the Journal says: “It shall be unlawful for a covered platform operator to own or control a line of business, other than the covered platform, when the covered platform’s ownership or control of that line of business gives rise to an irreconcilable conflict of interest.” 

The bulk of the legislation is narrowly focused only on big technology companies. The definitions of companies targeted by the bills state that they must have a market capitalization of $600 billion or more, must have more than 500,000 active monthly users and must be a critical trading partner.

Only four companies—Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google—currently meet the parameters laid out in the bills.  Walmart Inc., operates an online marketplace and has private-label products, but only has a $392 billion market valuation, so wouldn’t be subject to any of the bills, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Last year, the Journal reported about Amazon employees using the third-party data of sellers on its website to launch its own private-label lines, violating an internal policy.

When testifying to Congress, Amazon Chief Executive  Jeff Bezos said “I can’t guarantee you that that policy has never been violated.”

The intent, at least for Amazon, is very clear. The act aims to halt Amazon's practice of offering items for sale then developing competing products at a cheaper price. 

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Amazon's private label business has 158,000 products. The bill would force Amazon to sell competing assets or split up. 

Some Republicans are allegedly on board. But given this is not a budget item, passage needs 10 Republicans or an agreement to not filibuster. 

The Ending Platform Monopolies Act is just one of several proposals circulating and details are scant.

I suspect something will pass, pending on the final wording of the bills.