US Congressional report calls for antitrust action against tech giants

Sunday, 11 Oct, 2020

The report signifies that if Democrats make significant good points within the November elections, that "might change the antitrust political wild card", Wedbush Securities analyst Dan Ives wrote in a analysis notice. Another suggestion is for Amazon to stop operating on markets where it also competes with other retailers, but the report also urged US Congress to act on allowing antitrust enforcers more freedom to stop purchases of potential rivals. If such steps were mandated, they could bring the biggest changes to the tech industry since the federal government's landmark case against Microsoft nearly 20 years ago.

In a post responding to the report, Amazon said lawmakers wrongly limited the relevant market to e-commerce sales and not the larger US retail industry in determining if the company was dominant.

The report found that Google had monopoly power in the search engine market, Facebook had monopoly power in the social networking market, while Amazon and Apple had "significant and durable" market power in USA online retail, and in mobile operating systems and app stores. The committee recommends strengthening antitrust laws, and acquisitions by large players should be anti-competitive until proven otherwise. In one particular example, the report said Facebook's various products - such as WhatsApp and Instagram - compete with each other rather than "actual competitors".

And it asks Congress to boost the enforcement powers of antitrust regulators, such as the Federal Trade Commission, and to increase the budgets of the FTC and the Justice Department's antitrust division. But Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, Wisconsin Republican, said that while he disapproves of sweeping changes to the antitrust laws, "There actually is a lot that we agree on, including the lack of sufficient scrutiny on past activity by these companies". "Acquisitions are part of every industry, and just one way we innovate new technologies to deliver more value to people". "The goal of antitrust law is to protect consumers, not help commercial rivals", said Google. The antitrust report says Amazon's USA online retail market share is often understated as 40%, Instead, it says, "estimates of about 50% or higher are more credible". Experts say it's a bold and creative legal theory that could revolutionize how antitrust scholars think about competition in a digital world.

Washington is finally ready to turn up the heat on Silicon Valley. In the report, the Committee says Apple enjoys "monopoly power" over software and app distribution on iOS devices.

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House Judiciary Antitrust Subcommittee hearing July
View Larger + House Judiciary Antitrust Subcommittee hearing July

But limiting Big Tech's efforts to expand into new business lines is very possible.

"But large companies are not dominant by definition, and the presumption that success can only be the result of anti-competitive behaviour is simply wrong", it said.

Shares of Facebook, Amazon, Apple and Google all added to loses in after-hours trading.

State attorneys probe Google: A group of state attorneys general led by Texas is expected to file a lawsuit focused on digital advertising, while a group led by Colorado is contemplating a more expansive lawsuit against Google that may also include concerns about its Android business.