The U.S Department of Justice said Tuesday that it was opening an antitrust review of some of the biggest tech companies.
“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 said in a statement. “The department’s antitrust review will explore these important issues.”
The DOJ is belatedly joining a growing list of the concerned, which includes both the U.S. Congress and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) here in the United States, plus the European Commission (EC) in Europe, which has thus far been the most aggressive and effective.
And so far, its aims are, if anything, vague.
It is “reviewing 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,” which of course they have, and egregiously so in many cases.
The DOJ also doesn’t name its targets explicitly, but it doesn’t have to: By noting a focus on “search, social media, and some retail services online,” it is clearly examining Google, Facebook, and Amazon. And the following line clearly indicates that Apple is in the firing line as well.
“The goal of the Department’s review is to assess the competitive conditions in the online marketplace in an objective and fair-minded manner and to ensure Americans have access to free markets in which companies compete on the merits to provide services that users want.” Apple has been accurately and effectively accused of maintaining an unfair app store that favors Apple’s services while being detrimental to competitors and raising prices for consumers.
If violations of law are identified, the DOJ says, it will proceed appropriately to seek redress.
Violations of law will absolutely be identified. The only question is how quickly the DOJ can move to publish its findings, alert the companies of their violations, and then achieve this redress. The Department’s investigation of Microsoft in the late 1990s came on the heels of several years of FTC investigations and the resulting trial took years. Meanwhile, in Europe, the EC has been an effective block on the bad behavior of U.S. Big Tech. But everything happens so slowly there.
Whatever. It’s about time.
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