President Joe Biden signed a new executive order that in his words will ensure competition in sectors such as health care, agriculture, airlines and technology. The order includes more than 72 actions and involves a dozen federal agencies to “regulate” some of the competition issues facing the marketplace in the American economy.
It also presses antitrust agencies to redouble their efforts to regulate key markets for American society and to ensure that free competition does indeed exist in the aforementioned sectors.
Biden’s executive order seeks to make the labor market more flexible by eliminating unnecessary job requirements, such as excessive licensing. While in the 1950s less than 5% of available jobs required some type of professional license, today up to 30% of jobs require some type of license, according to the document.
President Biden directs the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to prohibit unnecessary occupational licenses that prevent many workers from accessing jobs they could perform because a costly licensing process excludes them, the document justifies.
In that regard, it presses both the FTC and the Department of Justice (DOJ) to establish an antitrust regulation that prevents employers from actively collaborating to suppress wage increases or reduce employment benefits by sharing payroll cost information with each other.
Finally, the executive order calls on the FTC to prohibit or limit employment requiring non-compete clauses, which prevent employees from working for a certain period of time in similar industries after resigning from their current job.
According to the executive order, the aim is to tackle the cost of drugs in the United States, which are increasing much faster than general inflation, so that one in four Americans have problems accessing medicines due to high prices.
In this regard, among the directives set forth in the executive order, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is asked to work with the states and American tribes to facilitate the importation of prescription drugs from Canada.
It also instructs the Health and Human Services Administration (HHS) to increase financial support for the manufacture of generic drugs, which provide low-cost alternatives for patients.
It also directs HHS to publish a plan within 45 days to combat high prescription drug prices and “price gouging.” It also establishes the design of a plan that in less than 120 days will allow Americans to purchase hearing aids at pharmacies without a prescription.
The document justifies that currently more than 48 million Americans are affected by partial or total hearing loss, and in many states hearing devices are expensive and can only be purchased through a physician or specialist, which adds additional costs.
Similarly, the executive order directs the FTC and DOJ to review the guidelines that allow hospital mergers, which have affected rural communities because of their costs, and seeks to prevent hospital concentration and price gouging.
The legislation focuses primarily on airlines, the executive order asks the Department of Transportation (DOT) to establish clear rules requiring a refund of baggage fees when there is a delay in baggage delivery or when service is not provided. The executive order asks the DOT to consider a rule that the customer be fully informed of baggage fees, flight changes or cancellations in advance.
It also requires the Federal Maritime Commission to regulate the excessive transportation costs of some shipping lines in the marketplace for both U.S. exporters and importers.
On the agriculture side, the order signed by Biden seeks to strengthen U.S. farmers’ markets, facilitate the reporting of bad practices by meat packers and redefine the established rules that allow a product to be labeled “Made in the USA”. This legislation would mainly impact product companies that carry out this activity.
Internet and technology
With respect to Internet services, the Biden administration will require broadband service providers to provide customers with a label that informs them about Internet services, such as bandwidth speed and coverage.
It also prohibits broadband operators from reducing the connection speed of their users in a discriminatory manner, so that Internet companies must treat all their users equally and not limit the use of the service to some users.
It orders Internet providers to reduce their fines for premature termination of the contract. The document explains that many times users do not change operators because the costs of contract termination can reach up to $200.
The greatest regulatory scrutiny comes from technology companies such as Google and Amazon. The Biden-Harris administration first plans to regulate the tech giants’ data usage and data aggregation policies.
Second, the FTC is being asked to establish rules to regulate unfair competition by technology platforms with respect to businesses that use those platforms.
According to the executive order, thousands of small retailers use the platform of companies such as Amazon to sell their products, however, it has been reported that Amazon has used the information of these retailers to copy their products and compete with small retailers within its platform offering the same products at a lower price and prioritizing their visibility on its website. The Biden Administration seeks with the executive order to “regulate” this type of practices.