Democrats continue push to break up big tech firms and their monopolies

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Big tech firms, namely Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google, have come under increasing scrutiny of late, with a number of sessions being held before the US Congress to explain why the companies do not hold monopolies in their respective industries.

While little has resulted from those aforementioned sessions, Democrats within the United States House Judiciary subcommittee are not relenting in their efforts to break up these big tech firms.

This as a 449 page report (PDF), detailing antitrust and the reasons as to why the firms should not be able to “enter adjacent lines of business”, was submitted recently.

This lengthly report required approximately 16 months of investigation to put together, with it noting on several occasions how each company enjoys a specific monopoly within an industry, which remains something that all four CEOs of the big tech firms continue to refute.

In the recent Congress sessions for example, we saw some even note that they are essential to the success of the American economy, and that any impediments placed against it, would be to the detriment of the United States.

“During the investigation, Subcommittee staff found evidence of monopolization and monopoly power,” the report highlights.

The report goes on to unpack the dominance of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google, and how this has, “diminished consumer choice, eroded innovation and entrepreneurship in the U.S. economy, weakened the vibrancy of the free and diverse press and undermined Americans’ privacy.”

Among the big tech firms, Apple in particular was called out for its control of the market thanks to its hardware and software, and in particular the distribution of mobile apps on iOS devices.

This is a particularly hot topic at the moment given Apple’s ongoing battle with Epic Games.

“Apple leverages its control of iOS and the App Store to create and enforce barriers to competition and discriminate against and exclude rivals while preferencing its own offerings,” explains the report.

“Apple also uses its power to exploit app developers through misappropriation of competitively sensitive information and to charge app developers supra-competitive prices within the App Store,” it adds.

Big tech responses

The Cupertino-based company has since responded to the report, as have Amazon and Google at the time of writing, with it continuing to refute the several claims being made.

“We have always said that scrutiny is reasonable and appropriate but we vehemently disagree with the conclusions reached in this staff report with respect to Apple. Our company does not have a dominant market share in any category where we do business,” reads the beginning of Apple’s statement, which you can read in full via Engadget here.

Amazon’s response argued that the recommendations made in the report would negatively impact the American consumer.

Here, the company said that the recommendations, “would segregate sellers into separate, less visible stores, make it harder for customers to compare prices of products and, ultimately, reduce competition — all leading to higher prices and less selection.”

As for Google, it too cites the risk such recommendations would cause for consumers, pointing to the value of its services in the process.

“Americans simply don’t want Congress to break Google’s products or harm the free services they use every day. The goal of antitrust law is to protect consumers, not help commercial rivals,” says the big tech firm.

All of the responses sound familiar, with the same arguments being put forth by the respective firms before. As such, the cynics in us tend to think little will come from this report, but the Democrats still hold out hope.

“The totality of the evidence produced during this investigation demonstrates the pressing need for legislative action and reform,” says the report.

“These firms have too much power, and that power must be reined in and subject to appropriate oversight and enforcement,” it concludes.

Robin-Leigh Chetty

Robin-Leigh Chetty

When he's not reviewing the latest smartphones, Robin-Leigh is writing about everything tech-related from IoT and smart cities, to 5G and cloud computing. He's also a keen photographer and dabbles in console games.