Yesterday, the President convened the White House Competition Council to mark the two-year anniversary of his Executive Order on Promoting Competition in the American Economy and to announce new initiatives to support healthy competition, lower costs, and crack down on hidden junk fees. The Competition Council drives the Administration’s whole-of-government effort to restore competition and coordinate progress on the Executive Order’s 72 initiatives, delivering concrete benefits of increased competition to America’s consumers, workers, farmers, and small businesses.
The President spoke to how promoting competition is a core important part of Bidenomics. He thanked the Council for their ongoing work to increase competition across the economy, including actions that have already made hearing aids more affordable and accessible, lowered insulin costs, and taken aim at prevalent junk fees. The President celebrated new actions announced yesterday to lower food prices, crack down on junk fees in the housing rental market, and provide clarity around enforcement of laws prohibiting anti-competitive mergers. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack then spoke to a new enforcement partnership with bipartisan state Attorneys General, as well as the Department’s ongoing work to invest in expanding independent meat and poultry processing and to issue new rules under the Packers and Stockyards Act to prevent abuse of farmers. Vilsack noted he was encouraged to see bipartisan interest in Congress in addressing competition issues in agriculture, but that the Department would continue to use its available tools to act now.
Yesterday’s announcements include:
- The Department of Agriculture (USDA) launched a new enforcement effort, the Agricultural Competition Partnership, with over two dozen bipartisan State Attorneys General to address anticompetitive and anti-consumer practices in food and agricultural markets, including in grocery, meat-processing, and other markets. This bipartisan group will use both state and federal enforcement tools to reduce prices and increase competition. USDA also announced a Farmer Seed Liaison to give farmers a voice in the patent process. These announcements follow ongoing work by USDA to support farmers and shoppers, including through proposing rules to address anticompetitive behavior and providing millions of dollars in grants for small and independent processing.
- The Competition Council announced a new front in the war against junk fees by announcing new actions to address rental housing fees. For example, rental application fees are often as much as $100, far above the cost of running a background or credit check – and add up when consumers apply to multiple units in a tight rental market. The White House announced that Zillow, Apartments.com, and AffordableHousing.com have committed to release new website features to allow prospective renters to see all the fees up front so they know what they’ll actually be paying as they comparison shop. The Department of Housing and Urban Development also issued a new white paper on rental housing junk fees and how to address them.
- The Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission answered President Biden’s call to action in the Competition Executive Order and released new proposed Merger Guidelines for public comment. These Guidelines aim to provide the public, businesses, workers, and consumers with more clarity around how law enforcement agencies assess mergers under current antitrust laws. The Council of Economic Advisers explained that the new proposed Guidelines are informed by the best and most recent economic evidence available, and that robust enforcement of mergers can lower prices, increase wages, and strengthen innovation.
The Council members used the rest of the meeting to discuss recent accomplishments and their priorities for the coming months, including how the Council can continue to support labor market competition and deliver cost-saving measures for Americans.
Participants in yesterday’s meeting included:
- Lael Brainard, Assistant to the President and Director of the National Economic Council (Chair)
- Tom Vilsack, Secretary of Agriculture
- Julie Su, Acting Secretary of Labor
- Xavier Becerra, Secretary of Health and Human Services
- Pete Buttigieg, Secretary of Transportation
- Jared Bernstein, Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers
- Neera Tanden, Assistant to the President and Domestic Policy Advisor
- Don Graves, Deputy Secretary of Commerce
- Adrianne Todman, Deputy Secretary of Housing and Urban Development
- Rohit Chopra, Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
- William LaPlante, Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment
- Kathi Vidal, Director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office
- Vanita Gupta, Associate Attorney General
- Lina M. Khan, Chair of the Federal Trade Commission
- Jessica Rosenworcel, Chair of the Federal Communications Commission
- Daniel Maffei, Chair of the Federal Maritime Commission
- Martin J. Oberman, Chair of the Surface Transportation Board
- Eric Van Nostrand, Acting Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy
- Jonathan Kanter, Assistant Attorney General for the Antitrust Division
- Caroline Crenshaw, Commissioner of the Securities and Exchange Commission
- Richard Revesz, Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs
- Natasha Coates, Deputy General Counsel of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission
- Hannah Garden-Monheit, Special Assistant to the President for Economic Policy and Director for Competition Council Policy
- Chad Maisel, Special Assistant to the President for Housing and Urban Policy