Congress Is Trying to Get Rid of Generic Products Online
With personal incomes in the Pelican State growing at one of the slowest rates in the nation and inflation at nearly ten percent, the average Louisianan is looking for any way to save a couple of dollars. While Louisianans are trying to stretch their budgets, everyday essentials like fuel, food, and clothing continue to cost all-time highs. Many people turn to generic or budget brand products to still get a quality product at a fraction of the cost, but Congress is debating a bill that might take these budget-friendly tools away.
The American Innovation and Choice Online Act (AICOA) would further increase costs on Americans while inflation is running rampant. This legislation would rewrite significant portions of American antitrust law which may seem distant from Louisianans’ daily lives. But these changes may get rid of many products Louisianans have come to rely on to save money all to simply “punish” large technology companies.
AICOA would make it illegal for large companies that operate an online platform to “self-preference” their own products. This may seem like a reasonable prohibition, but we are used to seeing self-preference products in stores every day, which often saves us money. For example, in grocery stores store brand products often cost less than their name-brand counterparts and are placed at attractive locations to consumers to see the price differences. . Also, some stores like Trader Joe’s or Costco almost exclusively sell their own products to pass savings onto consumers.
The same practices grocery stores use as part of their business model would be illegal for large online stores if the AICOA were to become law. Instead of being able to purchase the Amazon brand paper towels, Amazon could only carry other brands which cost consumers more.
Of course, this provision wouldn’t be limited to simply generic products. Services like two-day shipping on Amazon Prime, or Amazon Prime Video included with the subscription would also likely be illegal under this new rule. Even services like Google Maps, which appear at the top of the page when you do a Google search, would be forced to change how it operates.
The reasoning behind the AICOA is that these products are popular because they unfairly compete in the marketplace through preferential treatment. In reality, they are popular because they provide products consumers want at a cheaper price. AICOA would not only get rid of or change many of these products, but the law could also later be expanded to include companies like Costco or Trader Joe’s.
No doubt there are many concerns with large tech companies like online privacy or content moderation. But as the people of Louisiana are dealing with economic uncertainty not seen in at least a decade, now is not the time to raise costs even more.
Before Congress goes interfering with the market, it should fix the problems they created first.