Bipartisan House Bills Aim to Rein in Amazon & Other Big Tech Companies

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From Shelf Awareness:

On Friday, a bipartisan group of lawmakers in the House of Representatives introduced five bills that aim to rein in Big Tech companies–Amazon, Google, Facebook and Apple. The moves parallel efforts by the European Union to regulate Big Tech more, and seem to be one of the few areas where Congressional Democrats and Republicans have found common ground. Still, the bills could take a while to pass, especially in the Senate, with some Republicans wary about changing antitrust law, and once passed could take longer to implement.

“The proposals would make it easier to break up businesses that used their dominance in one area to get a stronghold in another, would create new hurdles for acquisitions of nascent rivals and would empower regulators with more funds to police companies,” the New York Times observed.

One of the bills, the Ending Platform Monopolies Act, would make it unlawful for an online platform to own a business that uses “the covered platform for the sale or provision of products or services” or that sells services as a condition for access to the platform, the Wall Street Journal wrote. The platform company also couldn’t own businesses that create conflicts of interest, such as by creating the “incentive and ability” for the platform to advantage its own products over competitors. The act could require Amazon to split into several companies.

The Journal added: “If the Ending Platform Monopolies bill were to be passed, Amazon could have to split its business into two separate websites, one for its third-party marketplace and one for first-party, or divest or shut down the sale of its own products. Amazon’s private-label division has dozens of brands with 158,000 products. It is also a market leader on devices such as Kindle eReaders, Amazon Echos, Fire TV streaming devices and Ring doorbells.”

Another bill bars platforms from giving preference to “the covered platform operator’s own products, services, or lines of business over those of another business user,” or that excludes or disadvantages other businesses. This, too, could deeply affect Amazon.

Another bill seeks to limit mergers, “making it unlawful for a large platform to acquire rivals or potential rivals,” the Journal wrote. Still, “the bill would have prevented only ‘a small percentage of all technology sector deals’ over the past decade, the summary said.”

Link to the rest at Shelf Awareness

PG wonders if any of the relevant lawmakers are thinking about what consumers (AKA voters) would like to have happen to Amazon.

Consumers vote with their dollars and their votes say they love Amazon more than any place else online in the United States (and probably the world).

PG did a quick and dirty online check and found apparently reputable (at least by online standards) sites that placed Amazon as the #1 online shopping site in the UK, Canada, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Japan and India.

Amazon came it at #2 in Mexico and #3 in Brazil. It didn’t make the top-ten in China.

So, because a large number of people love Amazon and a small number of people don’t like Amazon.

Some of the don’t-likes carry grudges against Amazon for one thing or another, mostly about changing things as they were. Of course traditional publishers and those with stakes in physical bookstores lead the way, but lots of other physical retailers do as well.

Nobody counts the millions and millions of people involved with third-party sellers on Amazon who are also very happy. Amazon’s nearly two million third-party sellers worldwide account for well over half of the platform’s total sales — 62% in 2020. Two million third-party sellers are much more than two million individual gals and guys working out of their garage. More than a few are large enterprises that employ dozens or hundreds of people.

PG found a website that lists the top one thousand Amazon third-party sellers world-wide based upon a formula it believes reflect the relative size of their sales volume. Amazon has 17 separate marketplaces, focused on geographical, cultural and/or language markets.

Within the top-ten third-party sellers world-wide, you’ll find:

  • German sellers – 3
  • UK sellers – 3
  • Indian sellers – 1
  • French sellers – 1
  • American sellers – 1
  • Japanese sellers – 1

In short, by attempting to disrupt Amazon’s operations, US politicians and their supporters are potentially harming a great many organizations and people who aren’t Jeff Bezos or Amazon millionaires at all.

And that’s not even talking about the the independent app developers that rely on Apple’s app store and those small businesses who use Google advertising.

PG suggests if you compare those who want to cut Amazon down to size to those who benefit from Amazon’s products and services, the Anti-Zon campaign is a war of the rich and privileged against much more varied and diverse worldwide group of individuals and small businesses for whom Amazon is both a valued source of good quality at reasonable prices and a way of earning a living when other avenues of financial advancement may be restricted and limiting.

And that’s not even talking about the gang of gatekeepers, thieves and con artists hovering around the traditional publishing empire.

But PG could be wrong.

He does feel better now, looking out the window hoping to see a unicorn or warm puppy walking by.

4 thoughts on “Bipartisan House Bills Aim to Rein in Amazon & Other Big Tech Companies”

  1. As you imply, this is a battle between the rich and powerful, that doesn’t capture the attention of the little people, because we’re all too distracted by the bread and circus’s of outrage about perceived moral injustices that are just distracting us from the real problems.

    Though I should add that the real problems is humanities inability to understand that we are not rational creatures, but one’s that rationalize our beliefs a la Heinlein.

    • E.E. Smith would call it muddy thinking.
      Or, in 21st century parlance, Not.Thinking.It.Through.

      The Amazon they rail at doesn’t exist except in the minds of union organizers.
      Setting aside the matter of the warehouse workers, which may or not be as bad as the handwringers make it up to be, amazon isn’t a monolithic empire, evil or otherwise, but a federated consortium. And the part of Amazon they rail against is the least important, least profitable, lowest growth portion. But also the part the employs 90% of the workers. The total staff is $1.3m so it is a safe bet that that’s over a million families making a *direct* living off Amazon Shopping and logistics.

      That’s detail number one the IdiotPoliticians™ aren’t factoring in.

      Detail number two is that Bezos is stepping down and who steps up? The chief of AWS which provides close to 90% of the profits.

      Detail Number Three is HQ2. As I pointed out two years back, HQ2 is a perfect fallback for calving the increasingly unmanageable sprawl of tbe Amazon consortium.

      Detail number four is that Amazon requires all its units to be individually profitable or show a path to growth+profits. (Much is made of Amazon buying and shuttibg it down after several yrars but those were several years where it never made a profit. They correctly read demographic trends and saw that selling discount disposable diapers is not a growth business.) The profitability requirement means Amazon can easily break itself up at a moment’s notice with minimal impact, wherever they draw tbe borders the separate parts will be independently viable.

      Detail five is that Amazon can wait and see if the grandstanding actually leads to anything meaningful and in the unlikely event it does, spin off the low margin/low growth/high employee Retail+logistics side and keep the high margin/high growth tech+content side under AWS and the new boss. Call the splinters AmazonShopping and AmazonFuture. If they wait for the bill to pass,
      and act the next day, the entity targetted by the bill won’t actually exist. And the two pieces will actually be able to be even more aggressive than now. For example, in the area of interest here, if they divorce KDP from Lab126 and Kindle hardware, it would be trivial for to sell both Mobi and epub ebooks and eat up even more of the ebook market since going to Amazon would also be “going wide”. Lots of epub fans buy their ebooks from Amazon and then convert for Kobo or Nook. A multiplatform Amazon or KU would moot their stores. (That was the big flaw in the “break up Microsoft” movement of the 90’s. At that point, breaking the one dominant monolith would have created three smaller, nimbler, and even hungrier hypercompetitors. Other than Standard Oil, mandated corporate breakups have always been a cure worse than the disease.)

      These folks are fighting the last war. Again. Last century’s war.
      The world is changing too fast for their ossified minds. By the time tbey get anything past the army of lobbyists encircling them the output will be meaningless and tbe real problem will remain unadressed.

  2. I would like Amazon to be responsible for replacement – at THEIR cost, plus damages – for those many items that are counterfeit, but sold as genuine.
    That’s fraud, by any standard.
    So, also, they would have to notify EVERY consumer who potentially bought that item, and inform them, that they are eligible for a replacement – at Amazon’s expense.
    A lot of those cheaper items are just tossed into the same bins as the real ones. Whether you get what you expected, or a fake, is a crap shoot.

    • That is part of “unmanageably sprawl”.
      So is the stuff Audible throws out every few months.
      It’s not common but some organizations grow too fast/big for their control systems.

      “Amazon total number of employees in 2020 was 1,298,000, a 62.66% increase from 2019. Amazon total number of employees in 2019 was 798,000, a 23.24% increase from 2018. Amazon total number of employees in 2018 was 647,500, a 14.4% increase from 2017. Amazon total number of employees in 2017 was 566,000, a 65.79% increase from 2016.”,2017%20was%20566%2C000%2C%20a%2065.79%25%20increase%20from%202016.

      From 2016 to today, they’ve doubled their staff.

      Revenue from 2017:

      Amazon revenue for the quarter ending March 31, 2021 was $108.518B, a 43.82% increase year-over-year.
      Amazon revenue for the twelve months ending March 31, 2021 was $419.130B, a 41.47% increase year-over-year.
      Amazon annual revenue for 2020 was $386.064B, a 37.62% increase from 2019.
      Amazon annual revenue for 2019 was $280.522B, a 20.45% increase from 2018.
      Amazon annual revenue for 2018 was $232.887B, a 30.93% increase from 2017.

      Those are ridiculous growth rates for a company over 20 years old.

      Those big increases are primarily coming from the digital services side which is good. If tbey were coming from dry goods a meltdown would be imminent. As if, those staffing numbers should be concerning. Not sure their control structures can cope with that kind of growth that quick. They’re thumbing tbeir nose at the business law of big numbers.

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