WASHINGTON, Jan 20 (Reuters) - The U.S. Senate Judiciary
Committee on Thursday approved a bill that would bar tech giants
like Amazon.com from giving preference to their own
businesses on their websites, despite hefty lobbying from top
executives like Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook.
The biggest technology companies, including Meta Platforms
Inc's Facebook and Apple Inc, have been under
pressure in Congress because of allegations they abused their
outsized market power. A long list of bills is aimed at reining
them in, but none have become law.
Lawmakers voted on an amended version of a bill introduced
by Senators Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat, and Chuck Grassley, a
Republican, that expanded the definition of companies covered by
the bill to include firms like the popular video app TikTok and
specified that companies were not required to share data with
firms that the U.S. government considers national security
Republican Senator Ted Cruz said during the hearing that he
spoke on Wednesday with Cook, saying he "expressed significant
concerns about the bill."
Cruz, who voted for the measure, said Cook expressed a
"reasonable" concern the bill would make it harder for Apple to
allow consumers to protect their privacy by electing that apps
not be allowed to monitor or track their online activities.
Klobuchar, chair of the panel's antitrust panel, said after
the vote that she also had spoken with both Cook and Google CEO
"I had discussions with them and I made my case and I
listened to them. They are most likely never going to like this
bill," she said adding that she was open to changes but not to
gutting the measure. "We're not going to put a bill forward that
The Cowen Washington Research Group said that despite the
committee's 16-6 vote to approve the measure, enough of its
supporters expressed reservations that it had less than a 50%
chance of becoming law.
A second bill, which was held over, would bar big app
stores, like Apple's, from requiring app providers to use their
payment system and prohibit them from punishing apps that offer
different prices through another app store or payment system.
Both bills have a version in the U.S. House of
The legislation aimed at Big Tech set off a firestorm of
opposition from powerful business groups.
Matt Schruers, president of the Computer and Communications
Industry Association, criticized the Klobuchar/Grassley measure
and predicted it would not pass the Senate. "Antitrust policy
should aim to promote consumer welfare - not punish specific
companies," he said in a statement.
The advocacy group Consumer Reports supported the
Klobuchar/Grassley bill to "reset the power asymmetry between
Big Tech, consumers and small businesses."
(Reporting by Diane Bartz; Editing by David Gregorio, Jonathan
Oatis and Cynthia Osterman)