President Joe Biden on Friday signed an executive order aimed at increasing competition in the U.S. economy.
“For decades, corporate consolidation has been accelerating. In over 75 percent of U.S. industries, a smaller number of large companies now control more of the business than they did 20 years ago. This is true across healthcare, financial services, agriculture, and more,” the White House said in a fact sheet released before the signing ceremony.
“That lack of competition drives up prices for consumers. As fewer large players have controlled more of the market, mark-ups (charges over cost) have tripled (pdf). Families are paying higher prices for necessities—things like prescription drugs, hearing aids, and internet service.”
The order includes 72 initiatives by over a dozen federal agencies that will help promote competition, the Biden administration says.
That includes making it easier to change jobs and raise wages by banning or limiting non-compete agreements and occupational licensing requirements deemed unnecessary, lowering prescription drug prices, letting hearing aids be sold over the counter at drug stores, requiring upfront disclosure by airlines of add-on fees, and banning early termination fees by internet providers deemed excessive.
“President Biden is taking decisive action to reduce the trend of corporate consolidation, increase competition, and deliver concrete benefits to America’s consumers, workers, farmers, and small businesses,” the White House said.
One key area is addressing big tech firms, which include Facebook and Google’s parent company Alphabet. The order takes aim at so-called killer acquisitions, or how big tech companies buy up potential competitors, by increasing scrutiny of such purchases or mergers. The administration is also accusing big tech platforms of gathering too much personal information and is directing the Federal Trade Commission to establish rules on surveillance and data accumulation.
Pushback against Big Tech is one of the few areas Republicans and Democrats agree action is needed, though they sometimes differ on how to approach the issue.