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Biden’s attack on monopolies starts on Friday

The White House is due to issue an executive order on Friday to encourage competition across the U.S. economy in the most ambitious effort in generations to reduce the stranglehold of monopolies and concentrated markets in key industries.

The order, the details of which POLITICO first reported on last week, marks a major push by President Joe Biden’s administration to focus on competition as part of the economic recovery from the pandemic. It also provides a response to criticism from the progressives that the federal government has focused too much on helping banks and other businesses without worrying about the impact on consumers who have watched their choices over the years dwindle.

Biden plans to sign the order at 1:30 p.m., the White House said.

The effects of the regulation were felt in industries like agriculture, airlines, healthcare, broadband and banking. Items not yet reported include a provision calling on the Federal Communications Commission to reintroduce its Obama-era net neutrality rules and a request that financial regulators allow data to be shared between financial firms.

Over the past week, the White House leaked information on various aspects of the regulation and how it will encourage more consumer protection and competition.

The arrangement is expected to include initiatives such as: B. Forcing airlines to reimburse passengers who receive poor WiFi service or baggage handling; Restricting the ability of companies to impose non-compete obligations on employees; demanding professional licensing requirements that limit competition in industries such as healthcare and guarantee farmers and motorists the right to repair their own vehicles without voiding warranty coverage. The latter provision would also have implications for consumer products like Apple’s iPhones.

Senior White House officials said the order is intended to ensure small businesses and consumers have access to fair markets.

“The overall aim of the executive order is to ensure that the president encourages competition in industries across the country,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Thursday.

Looking at just one industry that the contract is expected to cover, Psaki added, “It doesn’t sound right to most people that there are three shipping companies that dominate the market and cost suppliers, small businesses and people on the market all over the world increase and increase. ”the country. That doesn’t sound right or fair because it isn’t. “

background: The executive order builds on an order issued by former President Barack Obama in 2016, which encouraged authorities to take competition into account in their decisions and rule-making. That order – largely the work of Jason Furman, Chairman of the White House Economic Advisory Council – came towards the end of the Obama presidency. Few agencies followed White House urging, and those who did saw their actions largely overturned by former President Donald Trump’s agents.

Biden’s order will go a step beyond Obama’s in providing targeted suggestions for steps to be taken, rather than leaving implementation entirely to the agencies.

The new order is the result of months of negotiations between White House officials, particularly Tim Wu – who served on Obama’s National Economic Council and is now a Biden advisor specializing in technology and competition policy – along with the Department of Justice, the Federal Trade Commission and other federal agencies.

While the White House can order law enforcement agencies such as the Department of Transportation and Agriculture to take action, the Order refers to its instructions as “proposals” to avoid the appearance of the government inappropriately attempting to run independent agencies such as the FCC or FTC . That could avoid the kind of setback Trump faced when he pushed both agencies to crack down on social media companies.

Columbia University law professor and antitrust professor Wu, along with Lina Khan, a Columbia professor who named Biden as FTC chair last month, is considered a co-founder of the New Brandeis antitrust movement. Wu and Khan have both argued that the federal government should use a variety of tools beyond antitrust enforcement, particularly regulating the authorities, to encourage competition.

The White House order is expected to include these points, three people familiar with the executive order said:

Airlines and Shipping: The Ministry of Transport will enact rules aimed at increasing the transparency of airline charges for baggage and Wi-Fi services while helping consumers cover these costs if their travel is delayed or the service is inferior.

The agency had proposed similar rules in 2016 that would have forced airlines to disclose baggage and change fees before passengers buy their tickets, but the Trump administration lifted the rule.

The executive order also suggests that the agency seek ways to encourage competition at major US airports with capacity constraints such as New York’s JFK International and Ronald Reagan Washington National near DC

And the contract puts the Federal Maritime Commission, which regulates maritime shipping, and the Surface Transportation Board, which oversees trucking and railroading, into looking for ways to reduce consolidation and cut shipping costs.

Agriculture: The USDA will enact several regulations to protect farmers and ranchers from the unfair practices of large meat packers and other agribusinesses.

The rules are designed to make it easier for the agency to challenge unfair and fraudulent practices by meat processors and would allow farmers to more easily file complaints with the USDA or sue under the Packers and Stockyards Act. It would also tighten the rules for so-called poultry-farmer tournament systems, where contract farmers are paid more or less than their counterparts in the same area, depending on how well they meet buyer demands.

The agency is also making progress with rules aimed at improving food access through alternatives to supermarkets, such as the local farmers’ markets, and increasing consumer transparency on where meat is grown.

job: The order aims at non-compete clauses – contractual provisions designed to prevent workers within the same industry from changing jobs – and urges the FTC to put in place rules that prohibit this. About one in five Americans today is bound by non-compete obligations, especially in technology and healthcare, where the clauses are common.

The order will also require the FTC and the Department of Justice to challenge the overly broad work permit requirements imposed by state governments. A move that the government said could make it easier for workers to obtain new licenses when they move to a new state. During the pandemic, about half of the U.S. states agreed to change their professional licensing requirements to allow out-of-state doctors and health care workers to work or provide telehealth services in the state.

Financial services: The regulation is also intended to support open banking regulations, which are intended to enable data exchange between financial companies in order to increase consumer convenience and price transparency. New regulations could provide more clarity on the consumer protection and cybersecurity obligations of financial apps that have access to data on customers’ bank and brokerage accounts.

Under the Dodd Frank Act 2010, consumers have the right to access their own financial information. However, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has yet to issue standards that would regulate consumer claims and remittances, although it launched a possible settlement on the issue in October.

Progressive groups have urged the Biden government to adopt a rigorous interpretation of the law that will make it easier for consumers to switch banks and take advantage of innovative emerging technology companies that provide credit and investment services.

Right to repair: The regulation will also mandate the FTC to lay down rules as to when consumers can bypass manufacturers to request repairs on their products, a concept known as the “right to repair”. The widespread problem affects farmers who want to fix their equipment themselves, as well as consumers who want cheaper independent mechanics instead of car dealerships for car repairs – or small repair shops instead of Apple for broken iPhone screens.

In a May report to Congress, the FTC proposed such a ruling that clarifies when repair restrictions are against the law.

Manufacturers have fought against “right to repair” proposals, stating that they could expose customers to inferior repairs or even violate their privacy by undermining device security.

Mergers: The order would require the FTC and the DOJ to update the merger review guidelines and possibly withdraw the guidelines approved by the Trump administration last year. These guidelines focused on so-called vertical mergers, which involve companies that are not direct competitors but are part of the same supply chain and that have typically received little scrutiny by regulators. The two FTC Democrats opposed the Trump-era update, calling it overly respectful of business.

Changes to this policy could affect several pending deals, including Amazon’s proposed purchase of MGM Studios and the UnitedHealth Group’s purchase agreement to purchase Change Healthcare.

The ordinance also recommends that federal banking regulators work with the Justice Department to update the banking guidance. The DOJ works with the Federal Reserve, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. together to review bank mergers, however, has not changed since 1995 how it views potential mergers.

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