Tuesday 23 July 2019 11:37 pm

US opens industry-scale tech giant antitrust probe

The US Department of Justice is to open an investigation into whether the activities of major tech firms are anti-competitive.

The review will explore “whether and how market-leading online platforms have achieved market power and are engaging in practices that have reduced competition, stifled innovation, or otherwise harmed consumers,” the department said tonight.

The probe will cover concerns raised about “search, social media and some retail services online”, in an apparent reference to tech giants such as Google parent Alphabet, Facebook, Apple and Amazon.

A US Congressional committee held a hearing last week to question executives from those firms on whether they engage in anti-competitive practices.

Some have been the subject of scrutiny by EU antitrust authorities, with Amazon landing the attention of EU competition chief Margrethe Vestager’s most recent tech inquiry.

US President Donald Trump has taken issue with Vestager’s focus on American tech giants as of late.

“What she does to our country, she’s suing all our companies,” he said in an interview with Fox News last month.

“We should be suing Google and Facebook, and all that, which perhaps we will… They’re suing Apple for billions of dollars. They’re suing everybody.”

The EU has handed down billions of dollars in fines to US tech giants in recent years, while the US has taken a relatively light-touch approach respectively. This is set to change as the US Federal Trade Commission has reportedly agreed a $5bn settlement deal with Facebook over privacy violations, to be announced as soon as tomorrow.

“Without the discipline of meaningful market-based competition, digital platforms may act in ways that are not responsive to consumer demands,” assistant attorney general Makan Delrahim, who heads the US Antitrust Division, said in a statement.

“The department’s antitrust review will explore these important issues.”

Google and Apple declined to comment, while Facebook and Amazon did not respond to requests for comment.