President Biden on Friday will sign a sweeping new executive order aimed at cracking down on anti-competitive behavior by Big Tech and other sectors including labor, health care and financial services.
Comprised of 72 actions and recommendations, the order is intended to promote competition in the U.S. economy by encouraging more than a dozen federal agencies to scrutinize corporate mergers and other ways that a growing number of companies build their outside market power, according to a White House fact sheet.
The order is intended to "reduce the trend of corporate consolidation, increase competition, and deliver concrete benefits to America’s consumers, workers, farmers, and small businesses," the White House said.
It includes a broad range of goals and initiatives, such as:
- Urging the Federal Trade Commission and the Justice Department to "challenge prior bad mergers" that past administrations let slide
- Pushing the FTC to ban or limit non-compete agreements and occupational licensing requirements that the White House argues "impede economic mobility"
- Calling on the FTC to restore "net neutrality" laws that were unraveled by the Trump administration
- Asking the FTC to establish rules on surveillance and the accumulation of data by giant tech companies
- Encouraging the FTC to prevent internet service providers from striking deal with landlords that limit tenants' choices, which the White House said can prevent broadband infrastructure expansion by new providers
- Lowering prescription drug prices by supporting state and tribal efforts to import cheaper drugs from Canada
- Allowing hearing aids to be sold over the counter at drug stores
- Creating a "White House Competition Council" to lead federal responses to large corporations’ growing economic power
"Inadequate competition holds back economic growth and innovation," the White House fact sheet said, citing research from the Economic Innovation Group that found the rate of new business formation has plummeted by nearly 50% since the 1970s as large businesses make it difficult for Americans to break into the market.
The Biden administration pointed to a separate American Economic Liberties Project study that estimated higher prices and lower wages caused by the lack of competition cost the median American household $5,000 per year.
Biden is expected to sign the order at 1:30 p.m. ET after he delivers remarks on the state of the U.S. economy.
Big Tech is also under mounting pressure on Capitol Hill as lawmakers take up a series of sweeping new antitrust bills that could break up some of Silicon Valley's most powerful companies.
The massive legislation package, led by Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., would prohibit the tech behemoths from acquiring promising startups that could later become potential rivals and forbid them from using their platforms to discriminate against competitors. It would also prevent the companies from favoring their own products over competitors using their services.
Amazon, Google, Apple and Facebook have repeatedly denied abusing their market power and have argued the legislation could prevent the companies from running popular services and hurt small businesses that rely on those platforms for sales.
Although the companies – some of the biggest political spenders in Washington – enjoyed a mostly cozy relationship with the Obama administration, Biden said during the Democratic primary in 2019 that splitting up tech giants is "something we should take a really hard look at" but that it was "premature" to make a final judgment.