Amazon, Apple, Fb and Google Updates

Regulators and government officials worldwide continue to closely scrutinize big  technology companies — i.e., “Big Tech” — amid potential anti-competitive concerns.

The central question: Have companies such as Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Alphabet’s Google, and Microsoft become too powerful or do they maintain anti-competitive practices in such markets as:

  • e-commerce;
  • app stores;
  • social media;
  • Internet search; and/or
  • cloud services?

Note: This blog tracks those issues and more. Blog originally published July 27, 2020. Updated regularly thereafter.

Here’s a look at Big Tech companies and the scrutiny they face…

Amazon: Multiple updates…

  • CEO Jeff Bezos will make his first-ever appearance before Congress on July 29. In recent years, Bezos has granted few extended interviews to journalists and has seldom faced the kind of adversarial questions he is likely to get from lawmakers on the House Antitrust Subcommittee. He is set to testify via videoconference alongside CEOs from Apple Inc., Google parent Alphabet Inc. and Facebook Inc. Source: The Wall Street Journal, July 27, 2020.
  • Here’s a transcript of what Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos plans to tell the U.S. House of Representatives during a congressional hearing on antitrust concerns. Source: ChannelE2E, July 29, 2020.
  • As Apple and Amazon.com worked toward a high-profile distribution deal at least a couple of years ago, one proposal on the table was for Apple to have “competing ads removed from search” results on Amazon, according to documents released from a U.S. House of Representatives investigation. Source: Reuters, July 29, 2020.
  • Attorneys general from New York and California are partnering with the Federal Trade Commission to investigate Amazon.com Inc.’s online marketplace, according to people familiar with the matter. Source: Bloomberg, August 3, 2020.
  • Canada’s competition regulator is looking into Amazon over concerns the e-shopping giant’s practices hurt local companies and consumers. Source: Bloomberg, August 14, 2020.
  • A group of more than 2,000 online sellers has filed an antitrust case against Amazon in India, alleging the U.S. company favors some retailers whose online discounts drive independent vendors out of business. Source: Reuters, August 26, 2020.
  • Amazon has become the European Union’s latest Big Tech target as regulators escalated a case into how it uses rivals’ sales data on its platform and added a new probe into whether it unfairly favors its own products. Source: Bloomberg, November 10, 2020.
  • Amazon will raise fees for Spanish companies using its platform by 3% from April after the government imposed a digital tax, a company document reveals. Source: Reuters, January 22, 2021.
  • Amazon has failed to comply with workplace safety rules during the pandemic and retaliated against warehouse workers who raised concerns, New York alleged in a lawsuit against the retail giant. Source: Bloomberg, February 16, 2021.
  • Amazon documents reveal the company’s secret strategy to dodge India’s regulators. Source: Reuters, February 17, 2021.
  • Amazon’s workers in Italy will go on a 24-hour strike on March 22 after negotiations with the U.S. online giant over working conditions broke down, trade unions said. Source: Reuters, March 11, 2021.
  • The trade union Verdi has called for workers at six Amazon sites in Germany to go on strike from March 28, 2021, evening for four days in the latest attempt to try to force the U.S. e-commerce group to recognize collective bargaining agreements. Source: Reuters, March 28, 2021.
  • A group called Small Business Rising has formed to promote stronger antitrust laws while also pushing legislators to break up Amazon. Small Business Rising’s goals are outlined here. Source: Small Business Rising, April 6, 2021.
  • In a letter to shareholders, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos conceded that the company has todo “a better job for our employees.” The letter surfaces a few days after Amazon warehouse workers in Alabama voted against forming a union. Still, Bezos says Amazon needs a “better vision for how we create value for employees.” Source: Amazon, April 15, 2021.
  • Europe’s second-highest court will rule on May 12, 2021, on Amazon’s appeal of an EU order to pay about 250 million euros ($300.5 million) in back taxes to Luxembourg. Source: Reuters, May 3, 2021.

Apple: Multiple updates…

  • Multiple U.S. states are investigating Apple for potentially deceiving consumers, according to a March document obtained by a tech watchdog group know as the Tech Transparency Project. Source: Reuters, July 23, 2020.
  • As Apple and Amazon.com worked toward a high-profile distribution deal at least a couple of years ago, one proposal on the table was for Apple to have “competing ads removed from search” results on Amazon, according to documents released from a U.S. House of Representatives investigation. Source: Reuters, July 29, 2020.
  • Italy’s antitrust authority has opened an inquiry into Apple, Google and Dropbox over cloud computing services. Source: Reuters, September 7, 2020.
  • Apple iPhones face scrutiny from Dutch antitrust regulators who are probing whether users get a free choice of financial apps with contactless payments. The Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets said it started an investigation into payment apps’ access to near-field communication, which allows people to wave their phones at payment terminals to make purchases. Source: Bloomberg, December 4, 2020.
  • Apple faces an Italian class-action lawsuit seeking compensation over misleading claims about the battery life of older iPhones. Source: Bloomberg, January 25, 2021.
  • Britain’s competition regulator has opened an investigation into Apple after complaints that the iPhone maker’s terms and conditions for app developers are unfair and anti-competitive. The probe will consider if Apple has a dominant position in the distribution of apps on its devices in the UK, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said. Source: Reuters, March 4, 2021.
  • Apple was given a boost as France’s antitrust watchdog rejected advertisers’ requests to suspend the iPhone maker’s upcoming privacy feature, but Apple still faces a probe into whether the company unfairly favors its own products and services. Source: Reuters, March 17, 2021.
  • Google and Apple’s “symbiotic relationship” should get scrutiny from the U.K.’s antitrust regulator, a group of online advertisers said. Source: Bloomberg, March 22, 2021.
  • Fortnite maker Epic Games has filed a complaint with Britain’s competition regulator in support of its investigation into Apple’s alleged anti-competitive behavior. Source: Reuters, March 30, 2021.
  • Apple Chief Compliance Officer Kyle Andeer has agreed to testify before the U.S. Senate on competition issues related to mobile app stores, days after panel leaders criticized the company for refusing to appear. Google also is expected to testify at the hearing. The testimony is expected April 21, 2021. Source: Reuters, April 11, 2021.
  • In a thinly veiled attempt to push back against U.S. regulators and anti-trust concerns, Apple says it plans to make $430 billion in U.S. investments over the next five years. Also, Apple claims to be the largest taxpayer in the U.S. and has paid almost $45 billion in domestic corporate income taxes over the past five years alone, the company says. Source: Apple, April 26, 2021.
  • European Union antitrust regulators are set to charge Apple with blocking rivals on its App Store following a complaint by music streaming service Spotify. Source: Reuters, April 27, 2021.
  • EU regulators accused Apple of distorting competition in the music streaming market, siding with Spotify in a case that could lead to a hefty fine and changes in the iPhone maker’s lucrative business practices. Source: Reuters, April 30, 2021.
  • A trial involving Fortnite maker Epic Games  vs. Apple could help to determine the future of how apps generate revenue through mobile devices. Epic claims Apple charges exorbitant fees to mobile software developers and runs the App Store in a way that stifles smaller businesses and prohibits fair competition. Source: The Wall Street Journal, May 3, 2021.

Australia: Multiple updates…

  • Australia’s competition regulator on July 27, 2020, accused Alphabet’s Google of misleading consumers to get permission for use of their personal data for targeted advertising, seeking a fine “in the millions” and aiming to establish a precedent. Source: Reuters, July 26, 2020.
  • Australia’s government has ordered Facebook and Alphabet’s Google to share revenue generated from news articles, adding to growing global regulatory and political pushback against the digital giants. Source: Bloomberg, July 30, 2020.
  • Google said it would block its search engine in Australia if the government proceeds with a new code that would force Google and Facebook to pay media companies for the right to use their content. Source: Reuters, January 21, 2021.
  • Australia claimed an early win in a protracted licensing battle with Google as media companies lined up to announce content deals with the internet giant that were reportedly far more lucrative than their global rivals. Source: Reuters, February 17, 2021.
  • Facebook faced an angry backlash after blocking news feeds in Australia in a surprise escalation of a dispute with the government which could be a test for the future of online publishing worldwide. Source: Reuters, February 17, 2021.
  • Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison vowed to press ahead with laws to force Facebook Inc to pay news outlets for content, saying he had received support from world leaders after the social media giant blacked out all media. Source: Reuters, February 18, 2021.
  • Google misled some consumers about personal location data collected through Android mobile devices, Australia’s competition regulator said. Source: Reuters, April 16, 2021.

Canada: The country’s competition regulator is looking into Amazon over concerns the e-shopping giant’s practices hurt local companies and consumers. Source: Bloomberg, August 14, 2020.

China: China is preparing to launch an antitrust probe into Alphabet Google, looking into allegations it has leveraged the dominance of its Android mobile operating system to stifle competition. Source: Reuters, September 30, 2020.

European Union: Multiple updates…

  • Microsoft may find itself in EU antitrust regulators’ crosshairs yet again after U.S. workspace messaging app Slack Technologies complained about the company embedding its workplace chat and video app Teams in its Office product. Source: Reuters, July 22, 2020.
  • Facebook is suing European Union (EU) antitrust regulators for seeking information beyond what is necessary, including highly personal details, for their investigations into the company’s data and marketplace, the U.S. social media group said. Source: Reuters, July 27, 2020.
  • The European Union wants to arm itself with new powers to penalize big technology companies, the Financial Times reported. The proposed plan includes forcing tech giants to break up or sell some of their European operations if their market dominance is deemed to threaten the interests of customers and smaller rivals, the newspaper said. Source: Reuters, September 20, 2020.
  • Technology firms’ compliance with European restrictions on transatlantic data transfers is shockingly poor, Austrian privacy campaigner Max Schrems said, publishing a survey here of companies including Facebook and Netflix. Source: Reuters, September 28, 2020.
  • Alphabet unit Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple and other U.S. tech giants could be banned from favoring their services or forcing users to sign up to a bundle of services under draft EU rules aimed at reining in their power. Source: Reuters, September 30, 2020.
  • European Union regulators are making a ‘hit list’ of up to 20 large internet companies, potentially including Facebook, Apple, Amazon and Alphabet’s Google, that will be facing new and tougher rules aimed at curbing their market power, the Financial Times reported. Source: Reuters, October 11, 2020.
  • Amazon has become the European Union’s latest Big Tech target as regulators escalated a case into how it uses rivals’ sales data on its platform and added a new probe into whether it unfairly favors its own products. Source: Bloomberg, November 10, 2020.
  • A group of 165 companies and industry bodies have called on EU antitrust enforcers to take a tougher line against Google, saying the U.S. tech giant unfairly favours its own services on its web searches. Source: Reuters, November 12, 2020.
  • Technology companies’ services could be banned from the European market if they do not heed EU regulation, Europe’s industry chief Thierry Breton said.  Breton will announce new draft rules known as the Digital Services Act and the Digital Markets Act together with European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager on Dec. 2. Source: Reuters, November 15, 2020.
  • A video call between the European Union’s digital chief and Alphabet (Google), Apple, Amazon, and Facebook to discuss draft rules to curb their powers has been postponed until December 2, 2020, an EU official said. Source: Reuters, November 20, 2020.
  • Google and digital advertising firms are the targets of fresh privacy complaints filed in six EU countries over the way they sell ads to potential advertisers through a bidding process. Source: Reuters, December 10, 2020.
  • Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Alphabet unit Google may have to change their business practices in Europe or face hefty fines between 6-10% under new draft EU rules. Source: Reuters, December 15, 2020.
  • Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai will hold a video-conference call with EU antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager on January 25, 2021, according to a European Commission schedule published on January 22, 2021. Source: Reuters, January 22, 2021.
  • European Union antitrust regulators are set to charge Apple with blocking rivals on its App Store following a complaint by music streaming service Spotify. Source: Reuters, April 27, 2021.
  • Europe and Britain launched formal antitrust investigations into Facebook to determine if the world’s largest social network is using customers’ data to unfairly compete with advertisers, in a new threat to its business model. Source: Reuters, June 4, 2021.

Visit page two for anti-trust updates involving Facebook, France, Germany, Google/Alphabet, India, Italy, Japan, Microsoft, Netflix, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

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