FTC Says Multiple Tech Antitrust Probes Are Under Way -- 2nd Update

Date : 11/18/2019 @ 7:33PM
Source : Dow Jones News
Stock : Facebook Inc (FB)
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FTC Says Multiple Tech Antitrust Probes Are Under Way -- 2nd Update

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By Ryan Tracy 

WASHINGTON -- The Federal Trade Commission is pursuing several antitrust investigations into online platforms, the agency said, suggesting a broader review of the technology sector than previously known.

FTC Chairman Joseph Simons said Monday that in addition to the agency's probe of Facebook Inc., which that company has disclosed, the agency has "multiple other investigations going on with major platforms."

The FTC has interviewed sellers on Amazon.com Inc.'s online marketplace, according to some of the sellers who have spoken with the agency. Amazon hasn't disclosed being notified of a formal FTC probe and didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

The FTC enforces U.S. antitrust laws along with the Justice Department and state attorneys general. Those entities are also investigating whether large tech firms are abusing their market power. Facebook and Alphabet Inc., owner of Google, are the subject of both state and DOJ probes, according to the companies and regulators' public statements.

The companies have said they are cooperating with investigators and that they acquired their market positions legally -- by making products benefiting consumers.

Mr. Simons, speaking at an American Bar Association event in Washington, didn't discuss the details of any particular investigation. He said the agency's new technology enforcement division is looking at tech firms' conduct as well as reviewing whether previous tech mergers and acquisitions, either individual mergers or a string of smaller deals, harmed competition in violation of U.S. law.

He also said the agency is considering whether mergers were executed as part of "a campaign of exclusionary conduct that includes exclusionary behavior like exclusive dealings (and) loyalty programs."

Mr. Simons' remarks followed an appearance by Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen, who is a central figure in the Justice Department's broad antitrust review of online platforms, an initiative that has created tensions with Mr. Simons and the FTC.

Mr. Rosen said the DOJ hasn't yet reached any conclusions about potential issues people have raised about the dominant platforms, including whether they are stifling innovation and competition from other would-be rivals in the digital space.

The Justice Department's No. 2 official, however, warned that antitrust enforcement isn't a "panacea for every problem in the digital world," and suggested the department would consider other legal tools at its disposal.

"We will not ignore any harms caused by online platforms that partially or completely fall outside the antitrust laws," Mr. Rosen said. "We are keeping in mind other tools in areas such as privacy, consumer protection and public safety as part of a broader review of online platforms, to whatever extent warranted."

Brent Kendall contributed to this article.

Write to Ryan Tracy at ryan.tracy@wsj.com

 

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

November 18, 2019 14:18 ET (19:18 GMT)

Copyright (c) 2019 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

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