“Capitalism without competition isn’t capitalism; it’s exploitation. Without healthy competition, big players can change and charge whatever they want and treat you however they want.”President Biden
For decades, corporate consolidation has been accelerating. In over 75% of U.S. industries, a smaller number of large companies now control more of the business than they did twenty years ago.
That lack of competition drives up prices for consumers and drives down wages for workers.
Families are paying higher prices for necessities—things like prescription drugs, hearing aids, and internet service. And when there are only a few employers in town, workers have less opportunity to bargain for a higher wage and to demand dignity and respect in the workplace. In total, higher prices and lower wages caused by lack of competition are now estimated to cost the median American household $5,000 per year.
President Biden signed a historic Executive Order to establish a whole-of-government effort to promote competition in the American economy.
Here are the actions that the administration has already taken to-date to increase competition and deliver concrete benefits to America’s consumers, workers, farmers, and small businesses:
Competition in Healthcare
- The Department of Health and Human Services is publishing data about who buys and sells hospitals and nursing homes to enable researchers, law enforcement, and the public to better understand the impacts of consolidation.
- The Department of Health and Human Services announced an ambitious new package of nursing home reforms that will stop predatory corporate owners from maximizing their profits at the expense of vulnerable residents’ health and safety.
- The Department of Health and Human Services issued proposed rules to improve the affordability and accessibility of hearing aids by making them available over the counter at pharmacies and other regular retail stores.
- The Department of Health and Human Services published a report explaining the Administration’s plan to lower the price of prescription drugs for millions of Americans.
- The Department of Health and Human Services proposed a rule to crack down on hospitals that fail to disclose their prices, increasing the fine for failure to report prices nearly twentyfold.
- The Department of Health and Human Services is helping states develop plans to import lower-priced drugs from Canada.
- The Food and Drug Administration began collaborating with the Patent and Trademark Office on ways to improve the patent system to increase access to safe, affordable prescription drugs.
Competition in Labor Markets
- The Treasury Department, in consultation with the Department of Justice, Department of Labor, and Federal Trade Commission issued a report showing how lack of competition in labor markets harms workers and lowers wages by 20%.
- The Department of Justice and Department of Labor launched a new partnership to promote competitive labor markets and worker mobility, protect workers from employer collusion, and defend workers’ right to earn their fair share.
- The Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission held a public workshop to discuss efforts to promote competitive labor markets and worker mobility.
Competition in Finance
- The CFPB issued a compliance bulletin reiterating that consumers cannot be forced to sign up for a particular company’s prepaid card as a condition of receiving government benefits, underscoring that contractors that illegally harvest fees will be subject to enforcement actions.
- The SEC Commission voted to propose new rules on private investment funds – rules that will increase transparency, competition, and efficiency in an $18 trillion marketplace that touches nearly every part of our economy.
- The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau launched a new initiative to save Americans billions of dollars a year by reducing junk fees charged by banks and financial companies.
- The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau fined a prison financial services company $6 million in penalties for using its power over captive consumers to charge formerly-incarcerated people unfair fees to access their own money.
Competition in Food and Agriculture
- The Federal Trade Commission launched an inquiry into the ongoing infant formula shortage, seeking information about the nature and prevalence of any deceptive, fraudulent, or otherwise unfair business practices aimed at taking advantage of familiar during this shortage.
- The Department of Agriculture announced $225 million in funding to combat market dominance by a small number of major meat and poultry processers and to support workforce training.
- The Department of Agriculture issued a proposed rule under the Packer and Stockyards Act to protect poultry growers from deception by poultry-processing companies and to increase transparency and accountability in the poultry growing system.
- The Department of Agriculture released a report on the state of competition in agricultural markets, highlighting key investments, regulatory tools, and new reviews of USDA programs to ensure they promote competition.
- The Department of Agriculture announced that it is making available up to $215 million in grants and other support to expand meat and poultry processing options, strengthen the food supply chain, and create jobs and economic opportunity in rural areas.
- The Department of Agriculture announced a new $250 million grant program to promote to support independent, innovative, and sustainable American fertilizer production to promote competition and give American farmers more choices. The Department simultaneously launched inquiries into competition problems in input markets and retail markets.
- Treasury, in consultation with DOJ and FTC, released a report on competition in the markets for beer, wine, and spirits, celebrating the vibrancy and innovativeness of the U.S. alcohol industry while proposing a series of recommendations to level the playing field for small businesses.
- The Department of Justice and USDA launched farmerfairness.gov, a new online tool that allows farmers and ranchers to anonymously report potentially unfair and anticompetitive practices in the livestock and poultry sectors.
- The Biden-Harris Administration announced an Action Plan for a Fairer, More Competitive, and More Resilient Meat and Poultry Supply Chain.
- The U.S. Department of Agriculture launched a $100 million loan guarantee program which will make available nearly $1 billion in funds to expand meat and poultry processing capacity and finance other food supply chain infrastructure.
- The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced $500M to support new competitive entrants in meat and poultry processing.
- The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced new cattle price transparency initiatives to shine a light on pricing dynamics.
- The Department of Justice indicted four executives in the chicken-processing industry for price-fixing, as part of an ongoing joint investigation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
- The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced it will propose new rules under Packers and Stockyards Act to make it easier for farmers to bring claims and stop giant meatpackers’ abusive practices.
- U.S. Department of Agriculture announced a new more robust enforcement policy under the Packers and Stockyards Act.
- U.S. Department of Agriculture announced it will issue new rules on “Product of USA” labeling so that customers get what they’re paying for and American farmers get their fair share.
Competition in Technology
- The FCC unanimously voted to crack down on exclusivity arrangements between landlords and internet providers — “sweetheart deals” which lock tenants in apartments and office buildings into just one option for internet.
- The Federal Communications Commission unanimously approved a proposed rule that would require internet service providers to display “Broadband Nutrition Labels” that will encourage competition by allowing consumers to compare the true costs of internet services and find the best package for them.
- The United States Patent and Trademark Office is implementing the Trademark Modernization Act of 2020, which will promote innovation by making it easier to clear away unused registered trademarks and improving the registration process for individuals and businesses.
- FTC unanimously voted to ramp up enforcement against repair restrictions, so that consumers can fix their products cheaply and easily.
- FCC started the process for adopting rules to address sweetheart deals between landlords and internet providers that restrict tenants to only one broadband option.
- FTC filed an amended complaint against Facebook for alleging antitrust violations, including that Facebook resorted to an illegal “buy-or-bury” scheme to crush competition.
- The Department of Justice, the United States Patent and Trademark Office, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology sought comment on a draft policy statement seeking to promote good-faith negotiations over patents to essential technologies.
- The Department of Commerce launched a revitalized effort to assist the United States Patent and Trademark Office in developing a comprehensive national strategy to build a more diverse and inclusive innovation ecosystem.
Competition in Transportation
- The Surface Transportation Board announced emergency action to provide relief for farmers and shippers who are facing transportation delays from poor railroad service quality, lowering prices.
- The Department of Transportation made $1 billion in Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funds available to help promote competition through improvements to airport terminals and airport access.
- FMC and DOJ announced a new joint initiative to promote competition in the ocean freight transportation system.
- The FMC approved an ANPRM regarding a rulemaking to require vessel-operating common carriers and marine terminal operators to include certain minimum billing information for demurrage and detention charges, as well as requirements for the timing of these bills.
- The Department of Transportation announced a new rule that will help it move more swiftly to protect air travelers from unfair and deceptive practices by airlines and ticket agents.
- The Federal Maritime Commission issued guidance in an effort to remove barriers for shippers and others to file complaints and protect them from retaliation.
- President Biden called on the Federal Trade Commission to consider whether illegal conduct is driving up gas prices.
- The Department of Transportation proposed a rule requiring airlines to refund fees when baggage is delayed or when services that a consumer paid for, like WiFi, aren’t actually provided.
- The Department of Transportation published a report on its refund enforcement efforts, explaining how it secured airline ticket refunds for tens of thousands of travelers wrongfully denied refunds during the pandemic.
- The Federal Maritime Commission launched an inquiry into eight ocean carriers’ surcharges—fees that increase shipping costs.
- The Surface Transportation Board unanimously dealt a major setback to a $31B railroad mega-merger to protect the public interest.
- The Federal Trade Commission announced that it will crack down on anticompetitive practices and block illegal oil and gas mergers that could lead to higher fuel prices.
- The Department of Transportation appointed committed consumer advocates to the Aviation Consumer Protection Advisory Committee.
- The Federal Maritime Commission launched a new audit program to assess whether top ocean carriers are charging unfair shipping fees.
- The Department of Transportation announced it will open up 16 slots to a low-cost or ultra-low cost carrier at Newark-Liberty International Airport, giving travelers more options at lower prices.
Stopping Anticompetitive Mergers
- The Federal Trade Commission, collaborating with the Department of Defense, stopped a $4.4 billion defense merger, saving taxpayers from paying billions extra on defense contracts and protecting our national security.
- DoD published a report showing that decades of consolidation in the defense sector have threatened taxpayer value and national security and calling for strengthened merger oversight.
- The Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission launched a joint public inquiry aimed at strengthening enforcement against illegal mergers.
- The Department of Justice announced that it is seeking public comments on whether and how to revise the Bank Merger Guidelines to ensure they reflect current economic realities, ensure Americans have choice among financial institutions, and guard against the accumulation of market power.
- The Department of Justice sued to stop a merger between two multibillion-dollar sugar producers, arguing it would cause consumers and businesses to pay more for refined sugar.
- The Department of Justice sued to block the largest book publisher in the world from acquiring one of its biggest rivals, which would allegedly lead to lower advances for authors and fewer books and less variety for consumers.
- The Federal Trade Commission and The Department of Justice issued a joint statement announcing that they will revise the merger guidelines.
- The Department of Justice successfully blocked a mega-merger of two insurance brokerages that could have left just two dominant players and potentially raised fees for millions of consumers and businesses.
- The Surface Transportation Board unanimously dealt a major setback to a $31 billion railroad mega-merger to protect the public interest.
- The Department of Justice sued to block a domestic alliance between two carriers to protect air travelers nationwide.
More Information on the Executive Order
- Fact Sheet
- Text of the Executive Order
- Remarks by President Biden at the Executive Order’s Signing
- Council of Economic Advisors Blog Post
- Readout of the Inaugural Meeting of the White House Competition Council
- Remarks by President Biden Before Meeting with the White House Competition Council
- Readout of the Second Meeting of the White House Competition Council