Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google to Face Congress on Antitrust Issues
Tech giants are scheduled to testify before Congress on Tuesday.
Next Tuesday, July 16, representatives from Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google will testify before the bi-partisan House Antitrust Subcommittee to discuss concerns that “a small number of dominant, unregulated platforms have extraordinary power over commerce, communication and information online.” The federal government is concerned that the dominance these companies wield over the marketplace hampers competition. The antitrust committee will conduct a top-to-bottom review, the first time Congress has undertaken such an investigation of this area.
According to the House Judiciary Committee, the investigation has three primary focuses:
- Documenting competition problems in digital markets
- Examining whether dominant companies are engaging in anti-competitive behavior
- Assessing whether antitrust laws, competition policies and current enforcement levels are sufficient to address antitrust concerns
“The open internet has delivered enormous benefits to Americans, including a surge of economic opportunity, massive investment, and new pathways for education online,” said Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY). “But there is growing evidence that a handful of gatekeepers have come to capture control over key arteries of online commerce, content, and communications. The Committee has a rich tradition of conducting studies and investigations to assess the threat of monopoly power in the U.S. economy. Given the growing tide of concentration and consolidation across our economy, it is vital that we investigate the current state of competition in digital markets and the health of the antitrust laws.”
Antitrust Subcommittee Chairman David N. Cicilline (D-RI) also commented about the need for a thorough antitrust investigation.
“The growth of monopoly power across our economy is one of the most pressing economic and political challenges we face today. Market power in digital markets presents a whole new set of dangers. After four decades of weak antitrust enforcement and judicial hostility to antitrust cases, it is vital for Congress to step in to determine whether existing laws are adequate to tackle abusive conduct by platform gatekeepers or if we need new legislation,” Chairman Cicilline said.
The companies’ policy executives to appear before Congress include:
- Nate Sutton, Amazon, Associate General Counsel
- Kyle, Andeer, Apple, Chief Compliance Officer
- Matt Perault, Facebook, Head of Global Policy Development
- Adam Cohen, Google, Director of Economic Policy
What exactly is the federal government looking for? Clues to what anticompetitive tactics the big tech companies may be employing to stay on the top of the technology heap. In a June 3 report, Reuters said the U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission agreed that the DOJ would have jurisdiction over antitrust activities of Apple and Google, while the FTC would retain jurisdiction over Amazon and Facebook.
Each of the companies is facing antitrust concerns in the European Union as well. The European Commission, for example, has imposed billions of dollars in fines on Google since 2017 (Google is appealing), and Facebook is being investigated for possible violations of the General Data Protection Regulation that went into effect in May 2018. Germany is investigating Amazon, and Spotify has filed an antitrust complaint against Apple.
Governments in the United States and Europe are sending a clear message – they have grave concerns about potential antitrust behavior by these four technology companies, and they aren’t going to look the other way. The EU has, thus far, leaned toward heavy fines and requiring that business practices be improved. That has not been enough to get Google to change its ways, as far as we can tell. Perhaps U.S. probes, in conjunction with complaints from the E.U., may finally garner enough attention to force some transparency and potential changes in antitrust enforcement.