Antitrust report says tech is headed the same way as Big Pharma and Big Oil

A new antitrust report says that unless the government reigns in tech giants, it could go the same way as Big Pharma and Big Oil, with all the power resting in the hands of very few companies.

It argues that tech companies are spending increasing sums on lobbying politicians in an effort to stave off antitrust legislation, and that this pressure needs to be resisted …

Bloomberg reports.

The flood of lobbying dollars spent by tech companies has increased with market concentration, according to a new study that cites similar patterns in the pharmaceutical and oil industries […]

Reed Showalter, an attorney with the anti-monopolist group American Economic Liberties Project who wrote the study, said policy makers and antitrust enforcers should look beyond the impact that mergers have on consumers and consider how market concentration affects the democratic process.

“We need to more closely scrutinize various elements of competition policy that have allowed industries to become more concentrated over the last 30 to 40 years,” Showalter said in a phone interview Tuesday. “Allowing unchecked concentration is the cause for a lot of the democratic harms that we’re also seeing people complain about as big money enters politics. There’s no coincidence there.”

The study supports the argument of a group of scholars, many of whom have joined President Joe Biden’s administration, and lawmakers advocating for more robust antitrust enforcement […]

The study cites policy recommendations from the House antitrust subcommittee’s 2020 investigation of Amazon.com Inc., Facebook Inc., Apple Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google. Showalter, along with FTC Chair Khan, worked on the probe and the resulting report as an antitrust subcommittee staff member.

He also previously worked as a research assistant at Columbia University Law School for for anti-monopolist scholar Tim Wu, who Biden tapped to lead the administration’s tech and competition policy. Showalter is also an associate at the law firm of Jonathan Kanter, Biden’s pick to lead the Justice Department’s antitrust division.

Antitrust issues are arguably the biggest threat to Apple, given that legislation would threaten the most consistent growth area for the company: services. Apple is facing antitrust laws and lawsuits all around the world.

In its home market of the US, a House committee approved a bill that would make it illegal for companies to favor their own products (like Apple apps and Apple Music) over competitor ones on their platforms. A separate bipartisan bill would force Apple to allow third-party app stores.

Apple spends relatively little on lobbying given its size and wealth, but it has roughly doubled the number of lobbyists it uses over the course of the past decade. The company has lobbied on a number of issues, including some rather controversial ones.

Photo: Danilo Alvesd/Unsplash

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