House panel requests emails from Big Tech executives
US lawmakers have requested documents including emails and executive communications from Apple, Google, Facebook and Amazon as they stepped up their probe into competition in the tech industry.
Democrat and Republican leaders from the House judiciary committee on Friday sent letters to the four tech companies requesting the documents and information on their business practices, including discussions about mergers, by October 14.
“The documents requested will provide the committee with a better understanding of the degree to which these intermediaries enjoy market power, how they are using that market power, whether they are using their market power in ways that have harmed consumers and competition, and how Congress should respond,” said Jerrold Nadler, the New York Democrat who chairs the committee.
Google and other major US technology companies have already paid billions of euros for antitrust violations in the EU. Now, attention is shifting to whether US officials might follow suit.
The Department of Justice announced a broad competition investigation into the leading online platforms in July. Facebook also said earlier this year that the Federal Trade Commission had launched an antitrust investigation into its practices in June. Meanwhile, state officials across the US are readying their own probes.
The House committee review is focused on three areas, namely, “documenting competition problems in digital markets, . . . examining whether dominant firms are engaging in anti-competitive conduct” and examining whether current antitrust law can effectively address these issues, according to Friday’s statement.
As part of their information request to Facebook, lawmakers asked for executive communications regarding the social media company’s acquisitions, including Instagram, WhatsApp and Onavo, a security app that was shut down in 2018 after Apple barred apps that monitored what other apps were installed on a phone. The letter also asked for information behind Facebook’s decision to cut off a handful of third-party apps from being able to access its data.
The Google request also focused on its acquisitions, including of companies such as YouTube and Android. The group was also asked to outline any differences between how it treats its own Chrome browser versus other rival browsers, and how its search algorithm ranks Google content versus non-Google content.
Amazon was asked to hand over communications on an array of acquisitions, as well as on the pricing of its marketplace and cloud services.
The letter to Apple requested information on policies such as revenue sharing for in-app purchases and the default apps that iPhone users receive, and how apps are ranked in the App Store.
Google referred the Financial Times to a blog post by Kent Walker, senior vice-president of global affairs, published last week, that said the company has answered many questions on these issues over the years, adding: “We have always worked constructively with regulators and we will continue to do so.”
Amazon declined to comment. Apple and Facebook did not immediately respond to requests for comment.