Biden declares war on anti-competitive practices with sweeping order
President Biden will sign a sweeping executive order on Friday, aimed at promoting competition in the economy through 72 initiatives cracking down on anti-competitive practices in multiple industries.
The order aims to bolster competition and make broadband services affordable, encourage innovation and competition among tech companies, address prescription drug pricing, allow hearing aids to be sold over the counter at drug stores, ban or limit noncompete agreements for workers, and make it easier for people to get refunds from airlines, among other provisions.
In a fact sheet released by the White House Friday morning, the Biden administration said that anti-competitive practices across industries have driven up prices, made it harder for employees to bargain for a better wage and stunted economic growth.
The executive order will direct over a dozen federal agencies to implement these 72 initiatives to promote competition in the U.S.
The president has laid out a plan to promote competition in the health care sector, including directing the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to work with states on importing prescription drugs from Canada, and direct officials to develop a “comprehensive plan” to lower drug prices in 45 days.
In addition Biden will direct the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to evaluate hospital mergers that could be harmful to patient care, especially in rural communities.
Under rules for “Big Tech” companies, Biden wants greater condemnation for mergers between technology companies “especially by dominant internet platforms, with particular attention to the acquisition of nascent competitors, serial mergers, the accumulation of data, competition by ‘free’ products, and the effect on user privacy.”
The president has also indicated he wants to crack down on companies gathering personal information, and will direct the FTC to create rules on surveillance and data acquisition.
News of the executive order comes amid several lawsuits brought against big tech companies such as Google and Facebook alleging violations of antitrust laws.
On Wednesday, attorneys general of 36 states and Washington, D.C., sued Google, alleging its control over its Android app store violates antitrust laws. The lawsuit, led by Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes (R) and New York Attorney General Letitia James (D), is the third filed by states against the Silicon Valley giant.
The FTC will also establish rules against unfair competition methods on internet marketplaces such as “killer acquisitions,” a method that the administration said is “meant to shut down a potential competitive threat.”
It would encourage the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to restore net neutrality rules, which were undone under the Trump administration.
The order will also make it easier for Americans to switch banks by requiring the institutions to allow customers to take their financial transaction data with them.
For farmers, the order aims to increase their incomes by strengthening what the Department of Agriculture can do to address abusive practices from meat processors. It also directs the department to issue new rules defining what meat can be labeled “Product of USA.”
In the transportation sector, the order will direct the Transportation Department to issue rules that require an airline to refund baggage costs when a flight is delayed and clearly disclose cancellation fees. It will also require railroad track owners to provide rights of way to passenger rail and encourage the Federal Maritime Commission to ensure enforcement against shippers charging American exporters exorbitant charges.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said at the beginning of the month to expect an executive order on business practices to be revealed.
“Roughly half of private sector businesses require at least some employees to enter noncompete agreements, affecting over 30 million people. This affects construction workers, hotel workers, many blue-collar jobs, not just high-level executives. He believes that if someone offers you a better job, you should be able to take it. It makes sense,” Psaki said.
–Updated 8:48 a.m.