Today, the White House convened a listening session with entrepreneurs and small and mid-sized businesses about the importance of an innovative, dynamic tech sector and fair competition. The meeting focused on the challenges entrepreneurs, brick-and-mortar retailers, and other businesses face competing in sectors dominated by a few large platforms.
Promoting competition—including in the tech sector—is a core part of the President’s economic agenda, as underscored by the President’s July Executive Order on Promoting Competition in the American Economy. As part of that effort, senior White House officials have been engaging with large and small businesses across the landscape of the technology sector to better understand opportunities and challenges, as we seek to promote a more dynamic, productive, and competitive economy.
In today’s conversation, participants explained the challenges their businesses encounter operating through third-party platforms to reach large numbers of customers. Among those challenges, several participants described issues with large platforms both operating a marketplace and selling products on the marketplace, including concerns that the dominant platforms rank their own products and services above those of the independent sellers that rely on them to reach customers. One company elaborated that this deprives consumers of the ability to find the products and services that best match their needs.
Participants also described instances in which they believed platforms’ practices had prevented them from bringing innovations to market, such as forcing a business user to agree not to interconnect the business user’s software with multiple online platforms. A number of participants also expressed difficulty paying both fees that platforms charge and indirect costs through requiring the purchasing of supplemental services or advertising to maintain the business user’s position in platforms’ rankings. Some also raised concerns about platforms requiring them to agree not to charge lower prices if they sell the same goods off-platform through other channels with lower fees, which increases prices for consumers across the board because the platforms’ high fees drive prices up.
The White House officials closed the meeting by thanking the businesses and entrepreneurs for sharing their concerns and encouraged the participants to stay in touch. They explained that the Administration will continue to take all responsible actions within its power to promote competition. They further stated that they look forward to working with Congress to make bipartisan progress on the issue, and to engage with companies across the technology sector to promote a more dynamic, innovative, and competitive economy.
Attendees at today’s meeting included:
Deputy Chief of Staff Bruce Reed
National Economic Council Director Brian Deese
Mike Molson Hart, Founder, ViaHart
Gabriela Mekler, Founder, Mumi Design
Paul Sanders, Founder, eLuxury
Gina Schaefer, Chief Executive Officer, A Few Cool Hardware Stores
Patrick Spence, Chief Executive Officer, Sonos
Jeremy Stoppelman, Chief Executive Officer, Yelp