Eight US states could separately launch antitrust investigations of Apple & others

Following the unusual step of announcing a broad antitrust review of major Silicon Valley platform giants on part of the United States Department of Justice, a new report released Friday alleges that eight US states could separately probe the tech giants.

The states met yesterday with the US Attorney General William Barr to talk how the so-called Big Tech sector may affect competition and to review various antitrust actions, the Texas attorney general’s office said in a statement cited by Reuters.

The bipartisan group held discussions centered on ‘big tech companies stifling competition on the internet,’ the statement said. The other participants were not named, although four other states have been identified as having attended. ‘It was a productive meeting and we’re considering a range of possible antitrust actions against such companies,’ the statement said.

While the Justice Department did not identify the digital technology firms it’s investigating for potential anti-competitive behavior, the press release appeared to reference Alphabet, Amazon, Facebook and potentially Apple.

The investigation could amount to nothing, but there’s no denying that a wide-ranging probe of some of the world’s largest companies by Uncle Sam may have some lasting consequences. Republicans in the Trump administration have been calling for a review of Big Tech for quite some time. As if that weren’t enough, Senator Elizabeth Warren, a Democratic presidential candidate, has been pushing for a break of Big Tech, arguing that the likes of Amazon, Facebook and Google should be forced to divest companies they have purchased.

Those are some dangerous ideas from people who don’t really understand the Big Tech.

Executives from Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google were asked questions pertaining to their market influence during a recent congressional hearing. An Amazon executive, for instance, was asked about allegations that the world’s largest online retailer competed against its own sellers. The government also wanted to know about Facebook’s rapidly changing privacy policy and whether Google is demoting rivals in search results.

As for Apple, a representative for the Cupertino company was asked about its clout in the market for smartphone apps and in-app purchases. Apple critics long complained about the 15-30 percent fee that the company takes on sales of App Store apps and subscriptions. In March, Spotify validated objections revolving around the App Store business model by filing an antitrust complaint against Apple with Europe’s competition watchdog.

Apple has denied any wrongdoing in an open letter published on its website.

But the pressure on the company keeps mounting. In April, The Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets launched a probe into whether the Cupertino tech giant is giving its own apps preferential treatment. A recent Wall Street Journal investigation also alleges that Apple’s own apps are being prioritized in search results