Archive for the ‘antitrust’ Category

Congressional hearings signal growing antitrust problems for big tech

June 4th, 2019
The European Commission is investigating potentially false claims that Facebook cannot merge user information from the messaging network WhatsApp, which it acquired in 2014. Warsaw, Poland, on December 21, 2016. (Photo by Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Enlarge / The European Commission is investigating potentially false claims that Facebook cannot merge user information from the messaging network WhatsApp, which it acquired in 2014. Warsaw, Poland, on December 21, 2016. (Photo by Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images) (credit: NurPhoto | Getty Images)

The House Antitrust Subcommittee will conduct a series of hearings on the growing power of big technology companies, Chairman David Cicilline (D-R.I.) announced on Monday. It's the latest sign of growing interest in antitrust action against the largest technology companies—especially Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Apple.

"After four decades of weak antitrust enforcement and judicial hostility to antitrust cases, it is critical that Congress step in to determine whether existing laws are adequate to tackle abusive conduct by platform gatekeepers or whether we need new legislation to respond to this challenge," Cicilline said in a press release.

The announcement came shortly after news about a deal between the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission, which share responsibility for antitrust enforcement. Under the deal, the Justice Department will focus on investigating Google and Apple, while the FTC will be responsible for Facebook and Amazon. The Justice Department has reportedly begun an investigation of Google; it's not known if the agencies have begun investigating the other firms.

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Posted in amazon, antitrust, apple, Facebook, google, Policy | Comments (0)

Facebook, Google stocks fall on imminent antitrust probes

June 3rd, 2019
Facebook, Google stocks fall on imminent antitrust probes

(credit: Sam Churchill / Flickr)

The stock market has reacted badly to reports in The Wall Street Journal that two of the nation's largest technology companies—Facebook and Google—are likely to face intensifying antitrust scrutiny from federal regulators in the United States.

As I write this on Monday afternoon, Facebook stock is down 7 percent, while Google stock is down 6.5 percent. The S&P 500 index of large stocks is down less than 1 percent.

An unusual legal arrangement gives the Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission joint responsibility for antitrust enforcement. The two agencies negotiate to decide which one will represent the government in any particular inquiry.

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Posted in antitrust, Facebook, google, Policy | Comments (0)

Supreme Court ruling could threaten Apple’s 30 percent app commission

May 13th, 2019
Supreme Court ruling could threaten Apple’s 30 percent app commission

Enlarge (credit: Chesnot/Getty Images)

A narrowly divided Supreme Court is allowing a group of consumers to move forward with a lawsuit charging that Apple overcharges customers for App Store purchases. Apple had asked courts to throw out the lawsuit, arguing that the law only allowed app developers, not customers, to bring such a case.

The lawsuit has been underway since 2011 and is nowhere close to resolution. The stakes are high. Apple's iOS platform is notable for completely shutting out alternative means of app distribution. Other major software platforms—including Android, Mac OS, and Windows—offer customers the option to download and install software they acquire from third parties without paying a commission to the platform owner. But ordinary iPhone users—those who are unwilling or unable to jailbreak or use developer tools—have no way to install apps other than through the official App Store.

Plaintiffs in this case argue that Apple's 30 percent commission on app sales wouldn't be viable in a competitive app distribution market. The class-action lawsuit seeks refunds on behalf of millions of users who have paid inflated prices for apps as a result of Apple's exclusionary practices.

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Posted in antitrust, App Store, apple, Policy, Supreme Court, Tech | Comments (0)

Spotify’s EU antitrust complaint could be a serious threat to Apple

March 14th, 2019
The Apple logo takes corporeal form outside an Apple store.

Enlarge (credit: Andrew / Flickr)

Apple is abusing its control over the iOS App Store to give its own music streaming service an unfair advantage over competitors, Spotify argued in a Wednesday filing with the European Commission.

"Apple has introduced rules to the App Store that purposely limit choice and stifle innovation at the expense of the user experience," writes Spotify founder and CEO Daniel Ek. "After trying unsuccessfully to resolve the issues directly with Apple, we’re now requesting that the EC take action to ensure fair competition."

For years, Apple has pressured Spotify to use Apple's In-App Purchase service to collect subscription fees. Spotify has resisted, largely because Apple takes a whopping 30-percent commission. Over time, Spotify says, Apple has tightened up its app store rules to make it more and more difficult for app makers to direct users to payment methods outside the Apple ecosystem.

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Posted in antitrust, App Store, apple, competition policy, European Commission, iOS, Policy, spotify | Comments (0)

Uber was “hell-bent on stifling competition,” new lawsuit alleges

December 12th, 2018
Sidecar, as advertised on its 2012-era website.

Sidecar, as advertised on its 2012-era website. (credit: Sidecar)

Sidecar, an app-based ride-hailing startup that folded three years ago this month, has sued Uber, alleging that the dominant rival is "now a monopolist," and as such drove Sidecar out of business.

The lawsuit, which does not seek specific monetary damages, asks a San Francisco federal judge to declare that Uber is in violation of federal antitrust laws and state anti-competitive laws.

Sidecar shut down in December 2015, and its assets were sold to GM shortly thereafter.

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Posted in antitrust, monopoly, Policy, sidecar, Uber | Comments (0)

Newly elected Republican senator could be Google’s fiercest critic

November 24th, 2018
A politician gives a speech.

Enlarge / Senator-elect Josh Hawley (R-Mo.). (credit: Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley's defeat of Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill in the 2018 midterm elections earlier this month was a big deal from almost any point of view. Missouri was a pivotal swing state in the battle for the Senate, and Hawley's victory helped Republicans expand their slim Senate majority.

But Hawley's victory is an ominous sign for one company in particular: Google. Hawley campaigned as an antagonist to big technology companies in general and Google in particular.

"We need to have a conversation in Missouri, and as a country, about the concentration of economic power," Hawley told Bloomberg back in March.

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