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House to launch antitrust hearings starting next week

House to launch antitrust hearings starting next week
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The House Judiciary antitrust subcommittee will launch a series of hearings on proposals to address what it sees as an abuse of online market power with the first scheduled for Feb. 25. 

The subcommittee said it plans to call antitrust experts, affected businesses and “other knowledgeable witnesses” to assist with the development of legislation, but the Thursday announcement did not include details on specific witnesses that will take part in the hearings.  

The scheduled hearings are a continuation of lawmakers’ efforts to clamp down on the market power of the four biggest tech companies in the country. 

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Following a 16-month investigation into the state of online competition, Democrats on the House Judiciary panel on antitrust released a report in October that accused Apple, Google, Facebook and Amazon of stifling competition. 

“During our investigation into the rise and abuse of monopoly power online, we uncovered significant evidence of anticompetitive conduct and harmful business practices by Facebook, Google, Amazon, and Apple that enabled these companies to entrench their monopoly power, abuse competitors, and harm consumers,” subcommittee chairman Rep. David CicillineDavid CicillineHouse passes sweeping protections for LGBTQ people The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - J&J A-OK, Tanden in Trouble Six ways to visualize a divided America MORE (D-R.I.) said in a statement.  

“After publishing a comprehensive report documenting this conduct, I pledged to undertake a series of legislative reforms to restore competition online and to strengthen the antitrust laws. I look forward to working on a bipartisan basis to do just that,” he added. 

The investigation launched as a bipartisan effort, but the resulting recommendations split along party lines. 

Rep. Ken BuckKenneth (Ken) Robert BuckHouse to launch antitrust hearings starting next week Congress faces news showdown with Facebook, Google House Republicans gear up for conference meeting amid party civil war MORE (R-Colo.), now the ranking member of the subcommittee, releasing a separate GOP-backed report titled “The Third Way.” Buck’s report agreed with the majority staff’s views on the effects of big tech’s market dominance, but opposed some of the recommendations including structural separation, elimination of arbitration clauses and opening up companies to class action lawsuits. 

Despite differences in recommendations, the top subcommittee members of both parties are embracing the upcoming hearings to discuss proposals. 

“I am proud of the bipartisan work we have been able to accomplish this far and I look forward to working with Chairman Cicilline and the members of the subcommittee in this series of hearings,” Buck said in a statement. “As I outlined in the Third Way report, there are several areas of bipartisan agreement and I believe we will be able to accomplish some important antitrust reforms.”