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: House Democrats set to reshape antitrust law with 5 new bills

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Some of Big Tech’s fiercest critics are about to put legislation behind their words.

House Democrats, led by Rep. David Cicilline of Rhode Island, reportedly are poised to introduce a package of five bills to shake up the U.S. antitrust climate. The most aggressive would let prosecutors sue to break up major tech companies by forcing the platforms to sell off lines of business if they represent a conflict of interest. Another bill under consideration would prohibit online platforms such as Amazon from giving their own products or services an advantage over those of rivals that depend on the same platforms to reach consumers.

Politico first reported the imminent announcement of the bills.

The raft of legislation is the end result of recommendations from a blockbuster House Judiciary Committee report last fall on competition in digital markets. During a series of panels, executives from Apple Inc.
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Amazon.com Inc.
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Facebook Inc.
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and Google parent Alphabet Inc.
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were accused of monopolizing various aspects of the online economy.

Cicilline, chairman of the House’s Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law, has led the anticompetition charge on Capitol Hill, holding a string of hearings over the past year-plus.

“Mark my words: Change is coming. Laws are coming,” he warned in February, during the first in a planned series of hearings to “consider legislative proposals to address the rise and abuse of market power online and to modernize the antitrust laws.”

The arrival of the bills, expected any day, coincide with another round of antitrust travails for two of tech’s biggest companies this week.

Amazon.com Inc.
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faces a possible fine of more than $425 million from Luxembourg’s data-protection commission, the CNPD, for alleged violations of Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation, according to a Wall Street Journal report Thursday.

Earlier this week, the Ohio attorney general sued Google parent Alphabet Inc. on the grounds it is a public utility. Additionally, French authorities fined Google $268 million after concluding the search-engine giant abused its dominance over ad sales and purchasing on its platforms to distort the market to its advantage.

French antitrust regulators have more than Google in their cross-hairs: They’re also looking at the online ad policies of Apple Inc. and Facebook Inc. in an all-out effort to rein in anti-competitive behavior. Last week, Facebook tried to avoid a fine by making commitments to placate regulators.

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