Small Business Rising is a campaign by independent businesses and entrepreneurs. We’re urging policymakers to break up monopoly power and stop dominant corporations from rigging the rules in their favor. By restoring competitive markets, we can unlock the potential of Americans to grow successful businesses and build an economy that is more prosperous, equitable, and innovative. Small Business Rising is calling for Congress to pass legislation and for the antitrust agencies, including the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Department of Justice (DOJ), to use their authorities to:
Stop tech monopolies, such as Amazon, from cornering the online market by breaking them up and regulating them. Amazon’s stranglehold over online commerce is one of the top threats facing independent businesses. Amazon “has monopoly power” and “has engaged in extensive anti-competitive conduct” to further its dominance, according to the findings of a 15-month Congressional investigation. The investigation found that Amazon has exploited its gatekeeper power over online shopping traffic to impose exorbitant fees, demand oppressive terms, and extract valuable data from independent manufacturers and retailers that depend on its platform. Amazon has also used predatory, below-cost pricing to crush smaller competitors and control markets. We agree with the report’s conclusion that Congress must enact legislation to break up Amazon along business lines and establish standards of fair dealing for its online marketplace. Block dominant corporations from engaging in abusive and anti-competitive tactics by making our antitrust laws stronger and easier to enforce. America’s antimonopoly laws were enacted to safeguard small businesses, farmers, and working people from coercion and exploitation by preventing large corporations from amassing too much power. But beginning in the 1980s, the FTC and DOJ, as well as the courts, reinterpreted these laws. They abandoned concerns about outsized power and instead oriented antitrust enforcement around the idea of maximizing efficiency. Under this framework, enforcers embraced consolidation and adopted a permissive approach to predatory behavior by big corporations. This shift led to a series of misguided court decisions that have made proving antitrust violations extremely difficult and expensive. As a result, today’s economy is highly concentrated and market power abuse is rampant across many industries. Local grocery stores, for example, have seen their access to popular products cut off by “power buyers” like Walmart. Community pharmacies are struggling as vertically integrated health giants like CVS use their control over insurance benefits to slash how much their smaller rivals are paid. Predatory pricing is widespread, enabling large firms backed by Wall Street to take over markets without having to compete. Congress should restore the original purpose and strength of the antitrust laws by setting clear, bright-line rules that prohibit anti-competitive tactics by dominant corporations. Doing so will make antitrust enforcement simpler, less expensive, and more effective.
Outlaw mega-mergers and set a higher bar for allowing other mergers, including vertical acquisitions. Too many harmful mergers have been approved in recent decades. In the office supply sector, for example, the FTC allowed Staples to buy a major distributor to independent dealers. In the music industry, a single conglomerate now controls several key channels of distribution, including a swath of radio stations and live venues, undermining the ability of independent labels and artists to reach an audience. Congress needs to outlaw mega-mergers by corporations that are already large and dominant in their industries. Congress also needs to set a higher bar for approving other mergers, especially vertical acquisitions that allow dominant corporations to control crucial supplies, inputs, and services that their smaller competitors depend on.
Establish rules to create a level playing field, promote competition, and spur innovation. Reforming antitrust is one piece of the puzzle, but policymakers also need to bring a structural approach to other areas of policy to enable independent businesses to compete and thrive. This includes capping exorbitant credit and debit card swipe fees, closing tax loopholes that allow many big corporations to pay much lower effective tax rates than their small competitors, and eliminating public subsidies and incentives that finance big corporations at the expense of independent businesses and fair competition.
For further reading:
Buyer Power and Economic Discrimination in the Grocery Aisle, National Grocers Association, 2021 A Congressional committee spent a year investigating Amazon’s monopoly power. What do its findings mean for independent businesses? Institute for Local Self-Reliance, 2020 American Monopoly: Amazon’s Anti-Competitive Behavior is in Violation of Antitrust Laws, American Booksellers Association, 2020. Amazon’s Monopoly Tollbooth, Institute for Local Self-Reliance, 2020. Recommendations to Congress for Antitrust Reform, Institute for Local Self-Reliance, 2020 A Rebirth Of Indie Pharmacies Could Cure Rural Ills, The American Conservative, 2019 Survey: Independent Businesses See Major Threats in Amazon, Corporate Concentration, 2019 Testimony on Amazon’s Dominance Before the House Judiciary Committee, Institute for Local Self-Reliance, 2019 The Decline of Black Business, Washington Monthly, 2017 Amazon’s Antitrust Paradox, Yale Law Journal, 2017 Monopoly Power and the Decline of Independent Businesses, Institute for Local Self-Reliance, 2016 Amazon’s Stranglehold: How the Company’s Tightening Grip on the Economy Is Stifling Competition, Eroding Jobs, and Threatening Communities, Institute for Local Self-Reliance, 2016.