Shares in Amazon and Google are diving Monday morning on reports that U.S. regulators are gearing up to take a hard look at the tech giants.
The Washington Post reported over the weekend that regulators are eyeing a plan to divvy up competitive oversight of the two big tech companies, with the Federal Trade Commission tracking Amazon and the Department of Justice looking into Google. Regulators’ plans for Google and Amazon remain unclear, but the Post notes that moves like this tend to pave the way for more serious investigations.
European regulators have led the way in scrutinizing big tech companies, but now U.S. regulators are ratcheting up the pressure. In recent years European regulators levied significant fines on Google and opened up a probe of Amazon as well.
Neither company has commented publicly on the news yet. Google did not immediately return GeekWire’s requests for comment.
Concern over the rapid growth of big tech and companies dominating a number of industries has been a unifying source of concern among both Democratic and Republican lawmakers. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who has made breaking up big tech companies a central tenet of her 2020 presidential campaign specifically called out Google in a tweet, and Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley also applauded the possibility of increased scrutiny.
Google has too much power, and they're using that power to hurt small businesses, stifle innovation, and tilt the playing field against everyone else. It's time to fight back. That's why I have a plan to break up Google and the other big tech companies. https://t.co/0az1wjQIyt
— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) June 3, 2019
This is very big news, and overdue https://t.co/igyyrMWqSw
— Josh Hawley (@HawleyMO) June 1, 2019
Google, along with Facebook, is a dominant player in the online advertising industry, and it has been dinged by regulators for using the Android operating system to protect its position in search. Potential allegations against Amazon are less clear, but its dominance of e-commerce has raised concerns, even though the tech giant makes up a small percentage of overall retail sales and its overall revenue pales in comparison to Walmart, its primary competitor.
The news of increased scrutiny from regulators appears to be the start of what could be a larger process. Antitrust experts and observers are weighing in Monday, giving their thoughts on where this process may ultimately go.
Prior to the news of increased scrutiny on Amazon, Bloomberg wrote that “an investigation will no doubt be broad, lengthy, messy, and impossible for Google and its investors to predict. That should terrify Google and every other big technology company — because there’s no guarantee that the antitrust Klieg light will turn on one company alone.”
In a follow up story, The Washington Post spoke with Matt Murphy, a partner at venture capital firm Menlo Ventures who warned against a push to break up companies and other heavy-handed tactics. “The key is not to stoke fear or get caught up in the narrative that great, successful and profitable is evil or unfair, but instead to understand at a very granular level what, if anything, is unfair and address that specific issue (with a chisel!),” he told the Post.
Thoughts on DOJ/FTC movement on Google/Amazon: The fact that the DOJ and FTC are dividing authority is an important step towards the start of deeper antitrust investigations. Antitrust litigation in these new tech markets is complicated. Especially Google. 1/
— Dina Srinivasan (@DinaSrinivasan) June 3, 2019
— Michelle (@MichelleHill387) June 3, 2019
For now, the DOJ and FTC agreement news feels like a warning shot rather than a precursor to punishment for past actions. It's a message to Google, Amazon and the rest of Silicon Valley that they are no longer free from scrutiny.
— Ted Bauer (@tedbauer2003) June 3, 2019