New York Considers Stronger Antitrust Laws

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A bill to strengthen antitrust laws first drawn up a century ago to break up steel, oil and railroad monopolies would be used to confront today’s high-tech corporations that the proposal’s sponsor says wield a new threat of “abuse of dominance.” 

According to News Day, industry leaders warned in a legislative hearing Monday that the bill threatens free enterprise itself by exposing successful businesses and startups to lawsuits by competitors and criminal action by politically motivated attorneys general.

The bill sponsored by Senate Deputy Majority Leader Michael Gianaris would apply antitrust laws to companies such as Amazon, Facebook and Google that can’t legally be defined as monopolies, yet have commanding shares of a market. Monday’s sometimes heated debate between progressive lawmakers and trade groups included discussion of dominant hospital groups, pharmaceutical development and sales companies, and corporate farms.

The bill would provide stiffer civil and criminal penalties — some of which haven’t been increased for 45 years — for abuses of consumers through prices and quality of goods and services or abuse of workers in wages or conditions. The bill would empower the state attorney general’s office with a new tool for criminal and civil enforcement. The bill also would provide smaller, competing firms with more legal standing to sue the leaders of their field based on claims of abuse by market dominance.

“It’s about time we updated our laws here in terms of companies taking advantage of consumers,” said Sen. Kevin Thomas (D-Levittown), chairman of the Consumer Protection Committee, which led Monday’s legislative hearing on the proposed bill.

The bill was endorsed by state Attorney General Letitia James, who enforces antitrust laws and consumer protections.

Full Content: News Day