Five ques­tions tech ty­coons could face from US Congress

Bosses of Ap­ple, Face­book, Google and Ama­zon face a thor­ough ex­am­i­na­tion, re­ports James Cook

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Business -

The chief ex­ec­u­tives of some of the world’s largest tech­nol­ogy com­pa­nies have agreed to tes­tify be­fore the US Congress later this month as part of an an­titrust hear­ing. The ap­pear­ances by the chief ex­ec­u­tives of Ap­ple, Face­book, Google and Ama­zon will give US politi­cians a chance to ques­tion these bil­lion­aires on their com­pany’s prac­tices.

It is likely mem­bers of Congress will widen ques­tion­ing be­yond the an­titrust theme. Here are some of the is­sues they could ad­dress:

Are they mo­nop­o­lies?

The com­mit­tee has spent months com­pil­ing ev­i­dence of al­leged an­titrust abuses. Busi­nesses in­clud­ing News Corp, Or­a­cle, Spo­tify, TripAd­vi­sor and Yelp have all re­port­edly re­sponded with ev­i­dence they claim shows tech­nol­ogy gi­ants have abused their dom­i­nant mar­ket po­si­tion to squeeze out smaller ri­vals.

Mem­bers of Congress will de­mand an­swers from chief ex­ec­u­tives on whether they’ve grown too much and whether their mo­nop­o­lies need to be con­trolled. Large tech­nol­ogy firms each in­sist they are not a mo­nop­oly.

Tim Cook, the chief ex­ec­u­tive of Ap­ple who is ex­pected to ap­pear later this month, said last year: “I don’t think any­body rea­son­able is go­ing to come to the con­clu­sion that Ap­ple’s a mo­nop­oly.”

Is Ap­ple un­fair to app devel­op­ers?

Days be­fore Ap­ple held its vir­tual World­wide Devel­op­ers Con­fer­ence (WWDC) event, where it re­vealed its lat­est iPhone soft­ware, the com­pany be­came em­broiled in a de­bate over the re­stric­tions it places on app devel­op­ers us­ing its App Store.

Hey, a new email app, re­fused to give Ap­ple a 30pc cut of peo­ple pay­ing for its ser­vice, which led to Ap­ple re­fus­ing to al­low the com­pany to up­date its app.

Ap­ple even­tu­ally re­lented and al­lowed the app into its store, al­beit with­out any op­tion for peo­ple to pur­chase its ser­vices.

The in­ci­dent caused a wider de­bate over Ap­ple’s 30pc cut of in-app pur­chases and came af­ter Brus­sels opened an an­titrust in­ves­ti­ga­tion fol­low­ing com­plaints by Spo­tify and Rakuten. Mem­bers of Congress are likely to grill Cook on why Ap­ple

should be al­lowed its cut.

Is Google push­ing its own ser­vices over ri­vals?

US politi­cians have taken a close in­ter­est in Google Search and how it ranks and dis­plays re­sults.

Google has al­ready made changes to its Shop­ping ser­vice fol­low­ing an EU in­ves­ti­ga­tion into how it pro­moted pre­ferred mer­chants over other sell­ers on the ser­vice.

But at­ten­tion re­mains on whether Google is bury­ing cer­tain search re­sults be­low in­for­ma­tion boxes and spon­sored links, an al­le­ga­tion that Google has de­nied.

Yelp pol­icy head Luther Lowe gave ev­i­dence in a Se­nate hear­ing ear­lier this year and claimed that Google had “be­trayed the web”.

“Google phys­i­cally de­moted non-Google re­sults even if they con­tained in­for­ma­tion with higher qual­ity scores,” he claimed.

Is Ama­zon un­fairly us­ing data?

Mem­bers of Congress are likely to fol­low up on EU con­cerns that Ama­zon may have used its ex­ten­sive data on sales tak­ing place through its ser­vice to spot pop­u­lar prod­ucts and pro­mote its own items over those of third-party sell­ers. The Euro­pean Com­mis­sion is re­port­edly pre­par­ing to file charges against Ama­zon al­leg­ing that it mis­used its data to ben­e­fit its own items, an al­le­ga­tion that the com­pany has de­nied.

Jeff Be­zos, Ama­zon’s boss, is the only chief ex­ec­u­tive due to ap­pear later this month who hasn’t pre­vi­ously ap­peared be­fore Congress.

‘Google phys­i­cally de­moted non-Google re­sults even if they con­tained in­for­ma­tion with higher qual­ity scores’

Has Face­book bought its dom­i­na­tion of so­cial me­dia?

Politi­cians are also likely to ques­tion whether Face­book has been able to spend mil­lions of dol­lars buying smaller busi­nesses in or­der to ex­pand the num­ber of users it has.

Chris Hughes, a co-founder of Face­book, pub­lished an es­say last year call­ing for Face­book to be bro­ken up.

In his es­say, he wrote that Face­book’s 2012 pur­chase of In­sta­gram for $1bn (£0.8bn) and its 2014 pur­chase of What­sApp for $19bn en­abled Face­book to con­tinue grow­ing and “ac­quire its way to dom­i­nance.”

When Face­book chief ex­ec­u­tive Mark Zucker­berg tes­ti­fies later this month, he’ll likely need to ex­plain how Face­book car­ries out its ac­qui­si­tions and how they’re ben­e­fi­cial to the wider world of so­cial me­dia.

Ama­zon’s Jeff Be­zos, Mark Zucker­berg of Face­book, Ap­ple’s Tim Cook and Sun­dar Pichai from Google

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.