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US Antitrust Regulators Plan Overhaul Of Merger Approval Process

 |  January 18, 2022

The Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) launched a joint effort to modernize antitrust enforcement, seeking comment on how the agencies can apply current law in cases against tech companies like Meta (parent company of Facebook) and Google, reported Reuters.

The announcement came at a joint press conference from FTC Chair Lina Khan and Justice Department Antitrust Chief Jonathan Kanter, who described the move as a wide-ranging enforcement modernization effort. While the announcement spans markets, it specifically questions how regulators should approach merger approval in digital markets, potentially setting new legal standards around data aggregation, interoperability, and market consolidation that can affect competition.

“The digital revolution has not only impacted the markets of tech but markets across our economy, many of which have been rebuilt from the inside out,” Kanter said during Tuesday’s press conference. “Just think about what happens when you check your weather forecast or purchase your morning coffee. In seconds, whether you see them or not, you interact with dozens of distinct services; many of these services have the ability to exploit and exercise market power.”

Tuesday’s announcement followed new plans in the Senate to push through a pair of bills targeting tech giants like Apple, Meta, and Google. The Senate Judiciary Committee plans to vote on the American Innovation and Choice Online and the Open App Markets Acts on Thursday — bills that would outlaw dominant platforms from abusing their market dominance, allow third-party app stores, and protect software sideloading.

“This step toward Judiciary Committee consideration shows strong bipartisan support for our Open App Markets Act — to stop Apple and Google from crushing competitors and undercutting consumers,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (Democrat – Connecticut) said. “Breaking the ironclad grip of these two behemoths on the multi-billion dollar app market is long overdue. This measure has solid momentum.”

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