Biden signs executive order aimed at increasing competition in US economy

It would allow owners of iPhones to make repairs within their warranties.

July 9, 2021, 3:44 PM

President Joe Biden signed a wide-ranging executive order Friday afternoon aimed at minimizing the stranglehold of monopolies on certain industries and increasing competition among companies, which the White House believes will benefit consumers by driving down prices.

"The heart of American capitalism is a simple idea: open and fair competition. That means that if your companies want to win your business, they have to go out, and they have to up their game. Better prices and services, new ideas and products. That competition keeps the economy moving and keeps it growing. Fair competition is why capitalism has been the world's greatest force of prosperity and growth," Biden said in remarks ahead of the order signing.

In a "competitive economy," companies must also compete for workers, he said.

"Offering higher wages, more flexible hours, better benefits. But what we've seen over the past few decades is less competition and more concentration that holds our economy back. We see it in big agriculture, in big tech, in big pharma. The list goes on," he continued. "Rather than competing for consumers, they are consuming their competitors. Rather than competing for workers, they're finding ways to gain the upper hand on labor. And too often, the government has actually made it harder for new companies to break in and compete."

PHOTO: President Joe Biden signs an executive order aimed at promoting competition in the economy, in the State Dining Room of the White House, July 9, 2021, in Washington, D.C.
President Joe Biden signs an executive order aimed at promoting competition in the economy, in the State Dining Room of the White House, July 9, 2021, in Washington, D.C.
Evan Vucci/AP

Targeting air travel, labor practices, meat processing and more, the executive order contains 72 initiatives overseen by a dozen different government agencies.

Here is some of what's in the order:

  • It will allow owners of iPhones, appliances and other machinery to make repairs on their devices themselves or seek out repairs at independent shops without voiding warranty protections.
  • It requires the FAA to mandate efficient airline refunds for lost bags and dysfunctional WiFi service.
  • It aims to lower the price of prescription drugs by urging state and local tribes to import cheaper drugs from Canada, a move long supported by Democrats, and former President Donald Trump.
  • Hearing aids, which can often run consumers thousands of dollars, would be able to be sold over the counter under the order.
  • The order will encourage the FTC to limit non-compete agreements that prevent workers from seeking out better-paying jobs and affect some 30 to 60 million Americans. It also encourages the FTC to ban unnecessary licensing requirements for jobs like accounting and hairdressing, which differ from state to state and prove burdensome, especially for military families who frequently move.
  • "It's not right. Workers should be free to take a better job if someone offers it. If your employer wants to keep you, he or she should have to make it worth your while to stay. That's the kind of competition that leads to better wages and greater dignity of work," Biden said of non-compete agreements.

    These items, in particular, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Thursday, are "fulfilling [Biden's] campaign promise to promote competition in labor markets in order to raise wages and make it easier for workers to change jobs and to move between states."

    The changes won’t be immediately evident to Americans since the executive order merely kicks off longer rule-making and regulatory processes. Some of the executive actions are only recommendations, especially on those areas governed by the FTC and FCC, which are meant to be independent agencies not obligated to carry out White House directives.

    "Capitalism without competition isn't capitalism. It's exploitation," Biden said. "Without healthy competition, big players can change and charge whatever they want, and treat you however they want. And for too many Americans, that means accepting a bad deal for things that can't go -- you can't go without."

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