Readout of the Third Meeting of the White House Competition Council
This afternoon, the President met with the White House Competition Council in the State Dining Room to discuss the significant progress made since he signed the Competition Executive Order just over a year ago, and to call on the Council to continue taking aggressive actions to deliver concrete costs savings to American families.
The July 9, 2021 Executive Order on Promoting Competition in the American Economy established the Competition Council to drive forward the Administration's whole-of-government effort to promoting competition. Its purpose is to coordinate progress on the Order's 72 initiatives to restore competition in the economy, to collaborate on addressing pressing competition problems across the economy, and to find new ways of delivering concrete benefits to America's consumers, workers, farmers, and small businesses. The Council is comprised of ten Cabinet members and the heads of seven independent agencies.
The President commended the Council's members for the impressive work done over the last year, and highlighted several examples of initiatives to delivering cost-savings for American consumers:
- The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has taken steps to address the nearly $30 billion in "junk fees"—such as late fees, overdraft fees, bounced check fees—that Americans pay every year. Spurred by CFPB actions, three-quarters of the nation's 20 largest banks are getting rid of bounced check charges. And the overall level of overdraft fees is on track to be down $3 billion in 2022, compared to pre-pandemic levels.
- Last month, if your flight was canceled or delayed, no top airline guaranteed to cover meal or hotel costs, and only one guaranteed free booking—even when the delay or cancelation was the airline's fault. The Department of Transportation called them out and launched a transparency dashboard. As a result, now nine of the top ten airlines cover hotels and meals, and ten provide free guaranteed rebooking.
- Today, the Department of Transportation is issuing new rules that, when fully implemented, will require airlines and online search sites to disclose up front—while you are shopping for the best fare—any fees to sit next to one's kid, for baggage, and for changes or cancellations. This will stop airlines from hiding the true cost of a ticket, so that consumers can find the actual best deal—saving Americans money and spurring more competition on prices.
- The Federal Communication Commission is pursuing similar rules that will require internet companies to display a standardized "Broadband Nutrition Label" that discloses their monthly prices, fees, and internet speeds—so customers can see which company is cheapest and companies will have to compete for business.
The President emphasized that hidden, surprise fees hit the most vulnerable Americans the hardest, and that too often companies impose non-transparent fees that don't allow customers to see the full price of what they're buying, and use termination fees to make it harder for consumers to switch their service providers, like their cell phone company. The President called on all agencies to reduce or eliminate such fees, and to deliver concrete results by the next Competition Council meeting.
The Council's members then used the rest of the meeting to discuss their plans for the coming months, including strategizing on how best to deliver on the President's call to action to reduce or eliminate unfair fees that Americans shouldn't have to pay. The Council's members also discussed additional actions expected in the coming months, such as:
- Progress on banning or limiting noncompete agreements, which prevent millions of workers from seeking out better-paying jobs: Non-competes – which are used by nearly 1/3 of companies, including for many low-wage workers – stifle wage growth for American workers by making it more difficult for them to leave for higher-paying jobs. The Federal Trade Commission is working towards banning or limiting noncompete clauses.
- Funding for smaller meat processors to bring more competition to a highly concentrated sector: USDA will soon announce the distribution of millions in funding to help expand and diversify meat and poultry processing capacity, helping give consumers more and cheaper options.
- Implementing the over-the-counter hearing aids rule: The Food and Drug Administration has issued final rules allowing hearing aids to be sold over the counter, without a prescription or exam, starting next month. This is anticipated to save Americans as much as $3,000 per pair, providing more breathing room for the estimated 30 million Americans with hearing loss – including nearly 10 million adults under 60.
- Strengthening enforcement against illegal mergers: The Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission are working to finalize revisions to the merger guidelines—the framework for their analysis of mergers under the antitrust laws. The agencies are working to modernize the federal merger guidelines to better detect and prevent illegal, anticompetitive deals in today's modern markets.
Participants in today's meeting included:
- Lloyd Austin, Secretary of Defense
- Tom Vilsack, Secretary of Agriculture
- Xavier Becerra, Secretary of Health and Human Services
- Pete Buttigieg, Secretary of Transportation
- Shalanda Young, Director of the Office of Management and Budget
- Cecilia Rouse, Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers
- Wally Adeyemo, Deputy Secretary of the Treasury
- Lisa Monaco, Deputy Attorney General
- Julie Su, Deputy Secretary of Labor
- Rohit Chopra, Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
- Lina Khan, Chair of the Federal Trade Commission
- Jessica Rosenworcel, Chair of the Federal Communications Commission
- Marty Oberman, Chair of the Surface Transportation Board
- Daniel Maffei, Chair of the Federal Maritime Commission
- Rostin Behnam, Chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission
- Brian Deese, Director of the National Economic Council
- Kathi Vidal, Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office
- Amanda Fischer, Senior Counselor at the Securities and Exchange Commission
Joseph R. Biden, Readout of the Third Meeting of the White House Competition Council Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/358085