The House Judiciary Committee has announced that it will be launching an antitrust probe into the market power held by big tech platforms. This comes after numerous reports have suggested that both the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) are planning to investigate four of the major tech companies – Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google.
The House Judiciary Committee’s bipartisan investigation will look at competition in digital markets and will focus on:
- Documenting competition problems in digital markets
- Examining whether dominant firms are engaging in anti-competitive conduct
- Assessing whether existing antitrust laws, competition policies, and current enforcement levels are adequate to address these issues
The investigation will involve a series of hearings held by the Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial, and Administrative Law and requests for additional information that’s relevant to the investigation.
In a press release announcing the investigation, the House Judiciary Committee said:
“A small number of dominant, unregulated platforms have extraordinary power over commerce, communication, and information online. Based on investigative reporting and oversight by international policymakers and enforcers, there are concerns that these platforms have the incentive and ability to harm the competitive process. The Antitrust Subcommittee will conduct a top-to-bottom review of the market power held by giant tech platforms. This is the first time Congress has undertaken an investigation into this behavior.”
In the days before the House Judiciary Committee made its announcement, multiple reports have suggested that the DOJ is getting ready to launch antitrust investigations into Apple and Google while the FTC is preparing to investigate Amazon and Facebook. These reports caused the stock price for all four of these tech giants to fall with Amazon shares falling by 5%, Apple shares dropping by 1.7%, Google shares declining by 6.75%, and Facebook shares sliding by 7.95%.
Just a few hours before the House Judiciary Committee launched this antitrust investigation, European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said she was waiting for Apple to respond to the streaming music service Spotify’s allegations that Apple is engaging in anti-competitive practices. This follows previous reports indicating that the European Union (EU) is planning to launch an antitrust investigation into Apple based on Spotify’s complaint.
The House Judiciary Committee’s investigation also comes less than a month after the Supreme Court ruled that Apple will have to face an App Store antitrust suit. The suit claims that the company is abusing its monopoly power in order to add a 30% fee to App Store sales which then results in customers being overcharged for iOS apps.