U.S. House members assail Big Tech, consider changes to antitrust law

The four Big Tech members – Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, Facebook – received another tongue-lashing centered on antitrust concerns from Congressional members alarmed by the companies’ outsize market power.

U.S. House members assail Big Tech, consider changes to antitrust law. Image: U.S. Capitol Building
The United States Capitol Building

Jon Swartz for MarketWatch:

The House Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial, and Administrative Law held the first in a planned series of hearings to “consider legislative proposals to address the rise and abuse of market power online and to modernize the antitrust laws.”

“This problem is a cancer that is metastasizing across our economy and our country,” Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., chairman of the subcommittee, said in an opening statement. “Mark my words: Change is coming. Laws are coming.”

MacDailyNews Take: For Google and Facebook, great! But, we’ll believe it when we see it.

The hearings are intended to build on the committee’s 16-month bipartisan investigation into competition online, with particular emphasis on the business practices of Google parent Alphabet Inc., Facebook Inc., Amazon.com Inc., and Apple Inc. The Justice Department and state attorneys general have sued Google over its dominant search business, while the FTC has sued Facebook for “illegally maintaining its personal social networking monopoly through a yearslong course of anticompetitive conduct.”

The scrutiny doesn’t end this week or month, for that matter. The House Energy and Commerce Committee announced that Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg, Google CEO Sundar Pichai, and Twitter Inc. CEO Jack Dorsey will testify in a March 25 hearing on misinformation online.

MacDailyNews Take: Of these four “Big Tech” firms, Apple should not be lumped in the antitrust discussion with the likes of Alphabet/Google or Facebook which actually do have effective monopolies (which is legal, by the way) and who are also very likely abusing them (which is subject to any antitrust reform remedies).

The fact is that Apple has no monopoly in smartphones, or in any other market in which it competes, so Apple is incapable of committing monopoly abuse.

Worldwide smartphone OS market share, January 2021:

• Android: 71.93%
• iOS: 27.47%

Worldwide desktop OS market share, January 2021:

• Windows: 76.26%
• macOS: 16.91%

I don’t think anybody reasonable is going to come to the conclusion that Apple is a monopoly. Our share is much more modest. We don’t have a dominant position in any market… We are not a monopoly.Apple CEO Tim Cook, June 2019

As for Google, the biggest offender in “Big Tech,” we’ve love to see the imposition of any remedies that restore competition to online search and online advertising.

If you haven’t already, give DuckDuckGo a try! https://duckduckgo.com

With this unprecedented power, platforms have the ability to redirect into their pockets the advertising dollars that once went to newspapers and magazines. No one company should have the power to pick and choose which content reaches consumers and which doesn’t.MacDailyNews, November 9, 2017

We’d like to see real competition in the online search and advertising markets restored someday.MacDailyNews, March 20, 2019

8 Comments

  1. Follow the Michael Dell creed, “shut it down and give the money back to the shareholders.”

    Dell’s best advice to end America’s sewage pipeline. Keep open Keystone pipeline, end this bilge polluting America and mankind and bring up charges of crimes against humanity by Jack Dorsey, Mark Zuckerberg, et al the rest of the unAmerican criminal cabal!

  2. Two serious questions I’m not understanding here.

    First, while Apple IS “big tech,” what is the monopolistic issue being targeted? Is it just the AppStore control? Since there is plenty of competition in the hardware space, what else could they be after? Apple has already made some concessions with the AppStore, reducing exposure there, but is this a case of just getting mistakenly grouped in with Amazon, FaceBook and Google?

    Second, if we’re talking monopolistic tendencies and “Big Tech,” why is Microsoft not in the crosshairs? Or even Oracle for that matter? MS has a near monopoly on business machines and server software and certainly the most common piece of software on most computers in the world (some form of Office). Why is it never mentioned in these concerns?

    What is the argument for adding Apple to this frat party and why isn’t Bill Gates invited?…

      1. @Telstar

        Great factoid. I didn’t realize Gates’ stake in MS was so low these days.

        Your link is a bit over a year old, so it would be interesting to know what the numbers are like today, especially since Buffet offloaded a lot of AAPL recently.

    1. In Apple’s case they anticompetitively dictate who can code for devices, what they can code, who can sell Apps, who can repair, and who can provide IT services for devices they don’t own.

      They don’t own the device (the user does) and they don’t own the IP of third party apps, and yes… the store.

      At most Apple can refuse to warrant or in the case of software, be liable only for a factory restore.

  3. These are good points, but still I wonder how much “democracy” is reasonable for some of this stuff. Especially software. I’m not against Apple taking a cut at the AppStore, but now that there are millions of apps, and consumer and developer pressure, it’s probably time to reduce the percentage.

    However, having been in the independent Apple repair business for 15 years or so, I would like to see Apple open hardware up more. I support iFixit’s Right to Repair movement. I think all manufactures of technology should be required to publish their reliability data too. I believe car manufacturers are, so why not Smartphone and computers for starters?

    I also understand some of Apple’s legitimate (as well as simply greedy) opposition to it. Apple wants simple, fewer chinks in the chain, fewer points of failure that they can control.

    I’ve written about this in other locales, but I wonder when or if the legitimately paranoid corporate culture that Jobs brought to Apple, especially in the Second Coming, will ever evolve. Apple still has many of the traits of an underdog, a junkyard dog fighting for survival, long after they have clearly won the game and now dominate. Much of the secrecy and authoritarianism is beyond simple competitive needs, as are the layers of locks and chains on the door.

    And you’re right. Apple does act like they own every piece of hardware they sell and consumers are merely leasing it. I’d definitely like to see that change.

    I really don’t disagree with your points, but this behavior at this stage still seems small in comparison to how some of the other Big Tech control of their spaces. There is a reasonable argument to made for gatekeepers, and even moderated discussions. I think I fall somewhere in the middle.

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