Big Tech’s market dominance spurs numerous U.S. antitrust probes

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The four Big Tech companies — Alphabet’s Google <GOOGL.O>, Amazon <AMZN.O>, Apple <AAPL.O> and Facebook <FB.O> — face an array of antitrust investigations at the federal and state level which were revealed in mid-2019.

While Democrats may be viewed as tougher on antitrust regulation, traditional Republican concerns about regulatory overreach appear to be overridden by anger over allegations that Big Tech tries to stifle conservative voices.

These are the inquiries that are underway:

Justice Department on Google: The U.S. Justice Department is expected to file a relatively narrow complaint within two weeks, which accuses Google of seeking to disadvantage rivals in search and in lucrative search advertising.

Justice Department on Apple: This probe, which was revealed in June 2019, appears to focus on Apple’s app store. Some app developers have accused Apple of introducing new products and then pushing out apps which compete with them. Apple says it seeks to have only the highest quality apps in the app store.

Justice Department on Facebook and Amazon: In July 2019, the Justice Department said that it was expanding its Big Tech probes to include “search, social media, and some retail services online” — an apparent reference to Facebook and Amazon as well.

Federal Trade Commission on Facebook: FTC officials probing Facebook have asked about past acquisitions, like Instagram and WhatsApp, and how Facebook treats app developers on its platform. The FTC told Facebook in June 2019 it was probing whether the company has engaged in unlawful monopolistic practices.

Federal Trade Commission on Amazon: In its probe of Amazon, the FTC is likely looking at the inherent conflict of interest of Amazon competing with small sellers on its marketplace platform, including allegations that it used information from sellers on its platform to decide what products it would introduce.

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Indian Startups Band Up Against Google Dominance, Want To Build National Alternative To Play Store

KEY POINTS

  • Google Play will collect a 30% commission on in-app purchases from 2021
  • Indian startup founders called these charges “unfeasible”
  • Google’s Android holds a 95.8% market share in India

More than 150 top Indian startups and businesses, some of them big names, have banded together to challenge Google’s monopoly over the Android app ecosystem in India  and build an app store that the country can call its own, TechCrunch reported.

The move by Indian businesses to to build a national altenative to Google Play was prompted by Google’s recent annoucement to force app developers on its store to use its payments system, which takes a 30% cut on transactions including in-app purchases. Reports said founders of leading startups like Paytm, a payments app simiar to Google Pay and is India’s most valuable startup; MakeMyTrip and PolicyBazaar discussed Google’s policy and the concerns on dependence on Google on a call.

It is not yet clear how far the effort has progressed.

TechCrunch said without naming any sources that dozens of executives “from nearly every top startup and firm” in India attended the call Tuesday and agreed that a Google’s 30% cut was “simply unfeasible” and will hurt Indian businesses. It said the meeting discussed Google’s “monopolistic” hold on India, which has one of the world’s largest startup ecosystems, and what the executives alleged were unfair and inconsistent enforcement of Play Store guidelines in the country by Google.

Google Play Store Google’s new Play Pass subscription service gives users access to hundreds of apps and games from the Play Store. Photo: REUTERS/Stephen Lam

Last month Google reiterated Play Store’s gambling policy and even pulled Paytm’s app from the store for some time, citing repeated violations of the policy. Google leads the mobile payments market in India, and is a direct competitor to Paytm in

US to bring lawsuit against Google for ad, search dominance

Nubia Z20 status bar and Google search bar 9

  • The US Department of Justice is expected to sue Google as soon as next week.
  • It’s believed that the lawsuit accuses Google of putting search rivals at a disadvantage.
  • The department is also said to be investigating search advertising under Google’s search box.

Google has faced several legal challenges in recent years regarding its search and advertising business, and it looks like the US is next in line to take aim at the company.

According to Reuters, citing three sources familiar with the matter, the US Department of Justice is set to file a lawsuit against Google as soon as next week. It’s alleged that the department is also calling on state attorneys general to sign onto the suit.

The lawsuit reportedly accuses Google of trying to put search rivals such as Bing at a disadvantage. More specifically, it’s claimed that Google deprives rivals of “the data about users and user preferences” that these rivals need to improve their services and advertising.

Reuters says the Department of Justice is also focusing on search advertising that appears under Google’s search box, noting that Google controls these search boxes and the associated tools.

Recent actions against Google

This wouldn’t be the first time Google came under fire for its search and advertising practices, as the European Commission levied a €1.49 billion (~$1.7 billion) fine against Google last year for online advertising abuse.

The EU found that Google barred rival search advertisers — such as Bing and Yahoo — from displaying ads on publishers’ search pages. The EU also found that publishers had to get written approval from Google before making visual changes to rival ads.

Google was also fined almost $5 billion by the EU in 2018 for abusing its dominant position in the Android space. The EU took issue with