US competition enforcers launch overhaul of merger approval process

US competition enforcers launch overhaul of merger approval process

On Tuesday, the Justice Department and Federal Trade Commission launched a joint effort to modernize antitrust enforcement, seeking comment on how the agencies can apply current law in cases against tech companies like Meta (parent company of Facebook) and Google.

The announcement came at a joint press conference from FTC Chair Lina Khan and Justice Department Antitrust Chief Jonathan Kanter, who described the move as a wide-ranging enforcement modernization effort. While the announcement spans markets, it specifically questions how regulators should approach merger approval in digital markets, potentially setting new legal standards around data aggregation, interoperability, and market consolidation that can affect competition.

“We absolutely need to ensure that our tools today allow us to fully understand the markets of today”

“The digital revolution has not only impacted the markets of tech but markets across our economy, many of which have been rebuilt from the inside out,” Kanter said during Tuesday’s press conference. “Just think about what happens when you check your weather forecast or purchase your morning coffee. In seconds, whether you see them or not, you interact with dozens of distinct services; many of these services have the ability to exploit and exercise market power.”

Tuesday’s announcement follows new plans in the Senate to push through a pair of bills targeting tech giants like Apple, Meta, and Google. The Senate Judiciary Committee plans to vote on the American Innovation and Choice Online and the Open App Markets Acts on Thursday — bills that would outlaw dominant platforms from abusing their market dominance, allow third-party app stores, and protect software sideloading.

“This step toward Judiciary Committee consideration shows strong bipartisan support for our Open App Markets Act — to stop Apple and Google from crushing competitors and undercutting consumers,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) said. “Breaking the ironclad grip of these two behemoths on the multi-billion dollar app market is long overdue. This measure has solid momentum.”

Both known as fierce critics of tech consolidation, Kanter and Khan were confirmed to their posts last year, marking significant wins for progressives under the Biden administration. Before joining the DOJ, Kanter represented companies like Yelp and Microsoft in antitrust suits against Google. In 2017, Khan published a legal paper calling for new laws to prevent anti-competitive behavior from marketplace platforms like Amazon.

Last week, a federal judge said the FTC could proceed with an antitrust suit against Meta, where the commission seeks to unwind the acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp.

“We absolutely need to ensure that our tools today allow us to fully understand the markets of today and the realities of how our markets function,” Kanter said on Tuesday.

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