Congress Holds Tech Antitrust Hearings
The Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) have long been investigating the potentially anti-competitive nature of Big Tech companies and their constant mergers and acquisitions, trying to determine whether these giant corporations are in violation of antitrust laws in the United States. While investigators have gathered millions of documents and hundreds of hours of interview footage, they finally brought the leaders of the major technology companies in the U.S. to testify in front of the antitrust panel of the House Judiciary Committee on July 29, 2020.
The hearings involved the questioning of:
- Jeff Bezos of Amazon
- Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook
- Tim Cook of Apple
- Sundar Pichai of Google/Alphabet
All of the CEOs claimed that their companies provide beneficial services and products to consumers, that they have plenty of competition, and that the massive sizes of their corporations simply allow them to provide better services to the public.
Members of the House Judiciary Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law Subcommittee questioned whether the situation was that simple. Some stated that because these companies are central in the daily lives of Americans, any actions taken can have an outsized impact on the public and the economy.
Issues brought up in the hearings included the fact that Facebook leaders discussed the importance of acquiring Instagram via emails, which stated the social media giant wanted to prevent Instagram from becoming too much of a competitive threat. A week after the hearings, Facebook announced the launch of a new app called Reels, which is meant to compete with TikTok. With the future of TikTok in the United States being uncertain, it seems Facebook might be trying to set itself up to be the premier short-form video app in the U.S. should TikTok be banned.
Bezos was questioned about Amazon’s reported mining of data from third-party sellers to develop successful competing products manufactured and sold directly by Amazon. Bezos replied that Amazon is committed to the success of third-party sellers, and stated that such data mining would be a violation of company policy. Bezos also stated that there should not be a conflict of interest when Amazon creates and sells the same products as third-party sellers on the site, since consumers have the choice which products to select.
Similar questions were asked regarding Apple’s shutting out competition by limiting apps on the App Store, which remained focused on Apple-developed apps. Cook denied this was the goal of the company, and also denied accusations of pandemic profiteering.
At the conclusion of the hearing, the committee stated that there are clear monopoly concerns and that a report will be published. Members stated the need for a revamping of antitrust enforcement as it applies to these tech giants and the 21st century.
An Antitrust Lawyer Can Assist You
Tech is far from the only industry that faces antitrust concerns. If your company needs assistance with antitrust matters, The Law Offices of George M. Sanders, P.C., is ready to discuss your situation. Contact us today.