The U.S. government is gearing up to investigate whether Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google misuse their massive market power, sources told Reuters on Monday, setting up what could be an unprecedented, wide-ranging probe of some of the world’s largest companies.
The Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice, which enforce antitrust laws in the United States, have divided oversight over the four companies, two sources said, with Amazon and Facebook under the watch of the FTC, and Apple and Google under the Justice Department.
With jurisdiction established, the next step is for the two federal agencies to decide if they want to open formal investigations. Results are not likely to be quick. A previous FTC probe of Google took more than two years.
MacDailyNews Take: And was a complete sham. (See: The FTC’s Missed Opportunity on Google, Bloomberg Editorial Board, January 3, 2013)
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, a Republican, told Reuters that the business model of companies like Google and Facebook needs to be scrutinized. “It’s got so much power, and so unregulated,” he said. Another Republican, Senator Marsha Blackburn, said the panel would do what she called a “deeper dive” into big tech companies.
Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal, who said on Monday that U.S. enforcers have to do more than wring their hands about the companies’ clout, also weighed in.
“Their predatory power grabs demand strict & stiff investigation & antitrust action,” the Connecticut senator wrote on Twitter.
Separately, the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee opened its own investigation into competition in digital markets, with both Republicans and Democrats expressing concern about the power exercised by tech giants.
News broke on Friday that the Justice Department was laying the groundwork to investigate Google to determine whether the world’s biggest online advertising platform was using its size to squeeze out smaller competitors, violating laws designed to ensure fair competition.
MacDailyNews Take: The real problems where too much power is concentrated and the potential for abuse of their market power is greatest is clearly Google and Facebook.
Apple has nothing resembling a monopoly in any market in which they compete (PCs, smartphones, tablets, streaming music, ebooks, mobile apps, etc. etc. etc.), they only have a virtual monopoly on quality, well-heeled customers, because they’re smart. They skim the cream off the top, not race to the bottom, of the barrel.