Two U.S. Senators, Amy Klobuchar and Richard Blumenthal, proposed legislation on Friday (Aug. 2) that would make it easier to penalize Big Tech companies for antitrust violations, according to a report by Reuters.
Called the “Monopolization Deterrence Act,” the law would let the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) pursue civil penalties for companies that break monopolization laws.
The bill proposes a fine of as much as 15 percent of a U.S. company’s total revenue.
Many antitrust regulators are investigating tech companies like Alphabet and Apple to find out whether they are breaking antitrust laws. Klobuchar, who is running for president, said the proposed law would give “serious financial consequences” to companies, and that the U.S. has a “major monopoly problem.”
In early June, the DOJ and the FTC agreed on the jurisdiction of antitrust probes into Facebook and Google. They decided the FTC would lead the Facebook investigation, and the DOJ would lead an investigation of Alphabet, Google’s parent company.
There has been an ongoing probe into Facebook by the FTC for more than a year now. That particular inquiry doesn’t delve into whether Facebook is smothering competition, however. The fact that the issue is so sharply focused shows that the government is ready to apply a higher level of scrutiny to digital giants.
The FTC also has jurisdiction over Amazon, and The Washington Post reported the eCommerce giant was also under scrutiny. The agreement between the two agencies doesn’t mean that one gets to handle a whole company, but rather that both agencies agree to handle certain issues. Both the DOJ and the FTC have performed oversight of Google and Amazon in the past.
The FTC also recently put together a task force to examine competition at companies like Facebook and Google, and to reevaluate older government decisions that allowed bigger companies to acquire smaller firms, moves that are now thought to have contributed to the antitrust issue. One of the main issues being revisited is Facebook’s purchase of Instagram and WhatsApp.