On Friday, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) put out a new bill that would give the United States’s antitrust enforcers the ability to seek fines over anti-competitive behavior, something that, if approved, could scare big companies into following the law because there would be clear punishments for violations.
Right now, the federal government has its hands tied when it comes to punishing anti-competitive behavior. In most cases, the FTC opts to settle with companies rather than sue them when they’re believed to violate the law.
Klobuchar’s “Monopolization Deterrence Act” would empower both the Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission with the authority to seek civil penalties for behavior they deem monopolistic. In theory, the bill would incentivize companies not to violate American antitrust law in fear they may be fined if they do so. If approved, the FTC and DOJ could fine offenders up to 15 percent of their total US revenue for the previous year or 30 percent of their revenues over the period of time which the unlawful behavior took place — whichever is greater.
“We have a major monopoly problem in this country,” Klobuchar said. “So when federal enforcers uncover illegal monopolistic conduct, they need to act decisively to make sure it stops.”
So far, Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), and Ed Markey (D-MA) are the only other lawmakers to support the bill. No Republicans have backed it thus far.
The US’s antitrust authorities have spent the last few months opening and conducting antitrust investigations into some of the country’s largest tech companies, including Facebook, Google, Amazon and Apple. But a handful of lawmakers have warned that both the DOJ and FTC may not have the necessary authority to deter monopolistic behavior in the future.
Klobuchar’s bill doesn’t highlight American tech companies specifically, but it would help provide authorities the tools to better tackle tech monopolies and encourage them to follow the law. “The threat of an injunction isn’t always enough to deter this unlawful conduct from happening in the first place,” Klobuchar continued. “Dominant companies need to be put on notice that there will be serious financial consequences for illegal monopolistic behavior.”