The House Judiciary Committee's Antitrust Subcommittee on Tuesday released the findings of its 16-month-long investigation into the challenges posed by the dominance of tech giants in the digital economy.
The report [pdf], which totals 449 pages, concludes that big tech firms like Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon are effectively monopolies that need to be broken up to restore competition and improve innovation in the industry.
"As they exist today, Apple, Amazon, Google, and Facebook each possess significant market power over large swaths of our economy," said Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (NY-10) and Antitrust Subcommittee Chairman David N. Cicilline (RI-01) in a joint statement.
"In recent years, each company has expanded and exploited their power of the marketplace in anticompetitive ways."
"Our investigation leaves no doubt that there is a clear and compelling need for Congress and the antitrust enforcement agencies to take action that restores competition, improves innovation, and safeguards our democracy."
The antitrust report is out! They found:— Sam Dean ?? (@SamAugustDean) October 6, 2020
- Facebook has "monopoly power in the market of social networking"
- Google has "a monopoly in the markets for general online search+search advertising"
- Amazon engages in anticompetitive behavior
- The Apple app store is iffy
The report argues that tech firms are abusing their tremendous power to control access to markets and pick winners and losers. It accuses the tech giants of imposing harsh contract terms, charging excessive fees and extracting data from customers and businesses.
The report recommends a number of policy measures to radically change the way tech firms operate. It urges the House to consider restructuring big tech firms, empowering the agencies responsible for controlling market concentration, and introducing new antitrust rules to block attempts by companies to buy start-ups.
Some Republican representatives concurred with Democratic majority over proposed measures to empower antitrust enforcement agencies, but disagreed on proposals to restructure tech firms and their business models.
"I agree with about 330 pages of the majority's report," said Rep. Ken Buck, a Republican of Colorado, who has also released a separate report, titled "The Third Way".
Buck said he has a different opinion on the proposal to break up or restructure tech giants.
In a statement, Google said that it disagreed with the conclusions of the report. The company stressed that its free service had been a boon to users and that it competes "fairly in a fast-moving and highly competitive industry".
In a US Congress House Antitrust Subcommittee hearing in July, Google CEO Sundar Pichai had said that the company conducts itself to the "highest standards".
Apple also disputed the report findings, stating that developers have benefited from Apple's App Store which has enabled new services and new markets in recent years.
Facebook also opposed the finding that Facebook's mergers with WhatsApp and Instagram were anticompetitive.
The findings of the House Judiciary Committee's Antitrust Subcommittee investigation come at the time when EU is seeking to give itself new powers to penalise big tech firms.
EU commissioner Thierry Breton told the Financial Times last month that the new powers would enable the bloc to break up tech firms or to direct them to sell some of their operations in the region.
In rare circumstances, such companies could also be blocked from entering a specific market. They would also face penalties for serious anticompetitive activities, such as preventing customers from switching to a rival platform or forcing them to use only one service.
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