As the internet becomes increasingly closed and centralized, consolidation and the opportunity for anti-competitive behavior rises. We are encouraged to see legislators and regulators in many jurisdictions exploring how to update consumer protection and competition policies. We look forward to working together to advance innovation, interoperability, and consumer choice.
Leveling the playing field so that any developer or company can offer innovative new products and people can shape their own online experiences has long been at the core of Mozilla’s vision and of our advocacy to policymakers. Today, we focus on the call for public comments on merger enforcement from the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the US Department of Justice (DOJ) – a key opportunity for us to highlight how existing barriers to competition and transparency in digital markets can be addressed in the context of merger rules.
Our submission focuses on the below key themes, viewed particularly through the lens of increasing competition in browsers and browser engines – technologies that are central to how consumers engage on the web.
- The Challenge of Centralization Online: For the internet to fulfill its promise as a driver for innovation, a variety of players must be able to enter the market and grow. Regulators need to be agile in their approach to tackle walled gardens and vertically-integrated technology stacks that tilt the balance against small, independent players.
- The Role of Data: Data aggregation can be both the motive and the effect of a merger, with potential harms to consumers from vertically integrated data sharing being increasingly recognised and sometimes addressed. The roles of privacy and data protection in competition should be incorporated into merger analysis in this context.
- Greater Transparency to Inform Regulator Interventions: Transparency tools can provide insight into how data is being used or how it is shared across verticals and are important both for consumer protection and to ensure effective competition enforcement. We need to create the right regulatory environment for these tools to be developed and used, including safe harbor access to data for public interest researchers.
- Enabling Effective Interoperability as a Remedy: Interoperability should feature as an essential tool in the competition enforcer’s toolkit. In particular, web compatibility – ensuring that services and websites work equally no matter what operating system, browser, or device a person is using – may prove useful in addressing harms arising from a vertically integrated silo of technologies.
- Critical Role of Open Standards in Web Compatibility: The role of Standards Development Organizations and standards processes is vital to an open and decentralized internet.
- Harmful Design Practices Impede Consumer Choice: The FTC and the DOJ should ban design practices that inhibit consumer control. This includes Dark Patterns and Manipulative Design Techniques used by companies to trick consumers into doing something they don’t mean to do.