President Biden passed a comprehensive executive order on Friday making it clear to Americans that companies in multiple industries have grown too big and too powerful, and that federal intervention is needed to bring competition back to market and prices to lower.
The executive order to encourage competition in the American economy represents a slight shift for the Biden administration, which has recently turned its antitrust attention to big tech. Last month, Biden appointed technology antitrust expert Lina Khan to chair the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which works with the Justice Department to enforce antitrust laws. The regulation addresses several issues with large tech companies and suspected anti-competitive behavior, and calls for greater scrutiny of mergers and acquisitions that certain tech companies might pursue in order to remove competitors from the market. The new executive order also calls on the FTC to establish rules for the collection of user data that many big tech companies rely on for revenue and that Congress has consistently failed to regulate.
But it can be difficult to argue that Facebook and Google antitrust authorities are doing everything they can for consumer wallets, as these services are largely free – you essentially pay for them with your data, which the companies use to sell ads, for example . And Amazon's dominance over almost everything is due in part to the fact that prices are lower than smaller companies. People like to pay less for things, and lower prices have historically been interpreted as beneficial to the consumer. That's basically what antitrust law is for: protecting the consumer.
Now Biden is rolling out a comprehensive executive order that speaks, among other things, of how antitrust measures will save Americans money by boosting competition and lowering the price of everything from airfares to hearing aids.
"The heart of American capitalism is a simple idea: open and fair competition," Biden said shortly before signing the order. “That said, if your companies want to win your business, they have to get out there and improve their game; better prices and services; new ideas and products. "
He added, “But what we've seen over the past few decades is less competition and more focus holding our economy back. We see it in big agriculture, big technology, big pharmacy. The list goes on. Instead of competing for consumers, they consume their competitors. "
So, when fully implemented, the assignment can make things cheaper for you.
The Biden Implementing Ordinance instructs the Department of Transport (DOT) to issue regulations requiring airlines to reimburse fees when services are not provided or not provided adequately. For example, if you pay a baggage fee and your baggage is delayed, that fee will be refunded. Or if an airplane's WiFi or in-flight entertainment system were not working, the airline would issue some kind of ticket refund.
The order also directs the DOT to enact regulations that require airlines to clearly disclose all baggage, change and cancellation fees to their customers.
Americans have long been forced to pay what the few ISPs charge for these services, typically because they don't have much of a choice: most people have a high-speed internet option or two, which gives their carriers little motivation, they less to charge. And the prices of these providers can vary and are often filled with hidden fees.
The order calls for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to prevent Internet service providers from doing business with landlords who limit renters to only one option for an Internet service provider. In theory, this will encourage competition and lower prices.
The Biden government will also urge the FCC to revive their plan for the "Broadband Nutritional Label". This would force providers to explain all of the different tariffs available to customers, all fees associated with them, all of the services customers receive, and all of the details of their final invoice. These broadband food labels were proposed back in 2016, only to be dropped by the Trump administration's FCC.
Finally, Biden pleads with the FCC to restore net neutrality. Net neutrality, introduced by the Obama-era FCC and repealed by the Trump FCC, would prohibit airlines from charging more for access to certain websites or services. This is done by classifying the Internet service as a "Title II" common carrier, which would subject it to a regulation in the sense of a public utility company.
The mandate is ultimately intended to promote competition and transparency, and end fees that are used to retain customers.
Biden's new order directs the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to work with state and tribal agencies to import drugs from Canada, where those same drugs are typically much cheaper than in the United States. Ideally, this would force drug makers to cut the prices they charge in the US, or at least allow Americans to pay less for imported drugs.
The order also directs the Department of Health (HHS) to support generic drugs, which give Americans cheaper options for branded equivalents, and develop a plan to combat price gouging within 45 days.
Finally, she calls on the FTC to ban “Pay for Delay” when pharmaceutical companies pay competitors to stop offering cheaper generic versions of their drugs once their exclusive patent expires.
Biden is ordering HHS to put in place rules that allow hearing aids to be sold over-the-counter instead of forcing consumers to have an expensive (and likely unnecessary) consultation with a doctor first – one that few health insurers will cover.
Repairs from tractors to mobile phones
The order calls on the FTC to expand the "right to repair" rules. Farmers and iPhone owners alike have complained that their appliance and appliance manufacturers have made it impossible or unduly difficult for anyone other than these manufacturers to perform repairs – allowing manufacturers to set their own repair prices without competition to lower those prices drives.
Products from virtually any store that isn't Amazon
In what may be a broader part of the order, the Biden government is asking the FTC to put in place rules that will prevent "Internet marketplaces" from using their dominant position to gain an advantage over the small businesses that sell their goods through them have to . For example, Amazon can see which products from another company are selling well, create their own versions of those products, and then display them better. This could apply to Apple as well, as many developers have complained that its App Store is a monopoly and that Apple will see what its users want (e.g. music streaming services), create its own version, and on Apple devices transfer ownership.