UPDATE 2-U.S. House panel approves higher merger fees and bigger enforcement budgets

(Recasts with one bill passed, five more bills to consider)

WASHINGTON, June 23 (Reuters) - The House Judiciary Committee voted on Wednesday to approve a bill to increase the budgets of antitrust enforcers and increase fees on the biggest mergers as the panel considered six antitrust bills, many aimed at reining in Big Tech.

U.S. Representative Jerrold Nadler, the Democratic chairman of the Judiciary Committee, in an opening statement called the bills a "historic package of bipartisan legislation" aimed at "reining in anticompetitive abuses of the most dominant firms online."

After more than three hours of discussion, the committee voted 29-12 to approve what has been viewed as the least controversial of the six bills - a measure to sharply increase the budgets of the Justice Department's Antitrust Division and Federal Trade Commission, which enforce antitrust law. It would also increase the filing fees for the biggest mergers.

The measure has already passed the Senate.

In what is expected to be a lengthy session, the committee next takes up a bill that would ensure that antitrust cases brought by state attorneys general remain in the court they select.

There has been a flurry of opposition to the most sweeping reform bills, including from the powerful U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Amazon.com Inc, Apple Inc, Facebook Inc and Alphabet Inc's Google.

The companies have spent nearly the past two years under federal, state and congressional investigation into how they use their clout to fend off competition, extend their dominance into adjacent markets or abuse their dominance.

Of the remaining bills, two bills address the issue of giant companies, such as Amazon and Google, creating a platform for other businesses and then competing against those same businesses. One would require the competing business to be sold while the other would require platforms to refrain from favoring their own businesses.

A third bill would require a platform to refrain from any merger unless it could show the acquired company does not compete with it. A fourth would require platforms to allow users to transfer their data elsewhere. (Reporting by Diane Bartz in Washington Editing by Matthew Lewis)

06/23/2021 17:37

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