Torrance is a diverse community that balances a high quality of life with a business environment that helps large and small companies thrive. Unfortunately, a set of federal politicians have proposed a series of antitrust bills that would undermine our economic foundation and impose new costs and burdens on consumers and small businesses. Congress needs to hear from small businesses and consumers that this is a bad idea.
The state of antitrust bills is aimed at curbing the power of large online platforms and would require that these companies sell off lines of their business and be prohibited from self-preferencing their products on their own sites. What the politicians fail to consider, however, is it will be Torrance-area consumers and small businesses that will bear the negative impacts of these laws.
Let’s consider a local example. The Torrance Area Chamber of Commerce has long focused on helping community businesses strengthen their customer base. The #SmallYetStrong resource on our webpage helps connect consumers and small businesses in our neighborhoods. With a single click, customers can send an email to businesses, view their location on a map, or be taken to an externally-hosted website. If the antitrust bills were to pass and become law, these integrated resources would be broken up. A single online platform would be prohibited from combining map features, email or other helpful features and links on its site. Consumers would instead have to scour multiple sites on the internet, hoping to find this information. Congress should make it easier for local businesses to connect with customers, not make it more difficult.
During the pandemic, many consumers and local businesses have looked for ways to buy essential goods while keeping costs down. Many online platforms offer price discounts or free shipping on products because they are able to create efficient economies of scale when they operate multiple business lines. Consumers benefit from this efficiency through lower prices. If the proposed antitrust bills were to pass in Congress, covered platforms would be forced to break apart their operations, and customers would likely pay higher costs for goods that cannot be provided as efficiently. Our post-COVID economy should encourage growth, not discourage spending due to higher costs.
Business efficiency will be another victim if these Congressional antitrust bills become law. Many companies, large and small, operate their email communications, digital calendaring, slide deck presentations, and a host of other functions under the same online platform. Imagine having to maintain one account for email, another for a calendar, a third for photos, a fourth for word processing, a fifth for instant messaging, and so on. And good luck trying to integrate them all! But that’s exactly what local businesses will have to do if the antitrust bills move forward. Operating a business of any size is challenging enough. We don’t need Congress to make things more difficult for our neighborhood enterprises.
Another reason why the antitrust bills are bad for local consumers is that they abandon the historical standard of consumer protection. Historically, antitrust law has been based on ensuring that consumers have access to fairly-priced goods and services. Presently, customers have access to more low-cost or no-cost online services than ever before. Now, politicians are more concerned with whether one company can compete against another company. Consumer protection, including access to and costs for goods and services, should remain the goal of antitrust law.
Torrance is a wonderful community that is poised for strong economic growth in 2022. Our diversity, workforce, and beautiful vistas make our community the perfect place to live, work and play. Let’s ensure that our consumers and local businesses have every opportunity to succeed. Please join me in reaching out to members of Congress and urging them to reject the antitrust bills.