Over the weekend, the White House Antitrust Subcommittee Chairman David N. Cicilline announced a bipartisan investigation into competition in digital markets. The news follows the announcement that the Irish Data Protection Commissioner would be conducting an investigation into Google over potential GDPR breaches. This investigation, however, is more wide-reaching. In a statement on his website, Mr. Cicilline had this to say:
“The growth of monopoly power across our economy is one of the most pressing economic and political challenges we face today. Market power in digital markets presents a whole new set of dangers. 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.”
According to Cicilline, the investigation will focus on three main areas. Firstly, they want to document competition problems in digital markets. Secondly, they want to examine whether dominant firms are engaging in anti-competitive conduct. Finally, they will be assessing whether antitrust laws that are currently in place are sufficient, as well as competition policies and enforcement levels. In essence, the investigation wants to find out if any big tech companies are engaging in anti-competitive behavior, both legally and illegally. Anti-competitive behavior is when companies conspire with one another to raise their prices and thus increase profits. Competition between companies keeps prices low because each wants to outsell the other, and having lower prices is typically the best way to do this.
Cicilline goes on to acknowledge the role technology plays in our modern society but reiterates that it is important that the meteoric rise of companies like Google – who are the source of much of this modern technology – is overseen and regulated. He says that “there is growing evidence that a handful of gatekeepers have come to capture control over key arteries of online commerce, content, and communications”. While no company is specifically mentioned in the post, it’s obvious that tech giants like Google and Facebook – who have been subject to a lot of scrutiny in the past – will likely be investigated as part of this announcement
The legal woes of companies like Facebook and Google are likely to continue, then. With that being said, it is an encouraging step forward from the US government, who have previously been slow to react to antitrust issues. All the recent news surrounding Huawei is mostly because of alleged events that happened back in 2014. Hopefully, moving forward, the US government will react more quickly to tech-related scandals.
Source: US Government
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