US lawmakers step up antitrust inquiry, demanding documents from tech giants

US lawmakers step up antitrust inquiry, demanding documents from tech giants
Digital sovereignty

The House Judiciary Committee of the US Congress has called on tech companies to release a wide array of documents and emails relating to possible anticompetitive practices, escalating the federal government’s ongoing antitrust investigation into companies like Facebook, Google, and Amazon. 

The requests were sent directly to executives like Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Apple’s Tim Cook, and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, calling for the release of emails and other documents on a wide range of topics.

The committee is asking for records on Amazon’s acquisitions of AbeBooks, PillPack, Eero, Ring, Zappos and Whole Foods, and Google’s purchases of AdMob, YouTube, Android, and Doubleclick, according to Reuters

Apple was asked for information on moves to remove parental control apps, and its policies on letting iPhone users choose non-Apple apps as defaults. From Facebook, lawmakers requested documents on their acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp, and their moves to integrate those platforms with Facebook.   

The requests also called for financial statements, internal organization documents, lists of other firms they’ve identified as competitors, and information on how companies like Google shape their search results.

According to the committee’s chairman, Democrat Jerold Nadler:

“The open internet has delivered enormous benefits to Americans, including a surge of economic opportunity, massive investment, and new pathways for education online. But there is growing evidence that a handful of corporations have come to capture an outsized share of online commerce and communications.”

And even in a fiercely divided Congress, both parties have been able to find common ground in the inquiry, with bipartisan involvement. Doug Collins, the committee’s senior Republican, said:

“This information is key in helping determine whether anticompetitive behavior is occurring, whether our antitrust enforcement agencies should investigate specific issues and whether or not our antitrust laws need improvement to better promote competition in the digital markets.”

A deadline of October 14th was set for the companies to turn over the documents.

Two groups of US state attorney generals are conducting antitrust investigations, as are the Justice Department and Federal Trade Commission. The same companies are also facing mounting antitrust and tax enforcement in Europe and the UK.

The broad nature of the request could now signal an escalation of scrutiny in the US, as new European Commission leadership seems poised to step up efforts to rein in the same firms on the other side of the Atlantic. 

Photo by Rhododendrites [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)]

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