June 7, 2019
In the U.S. and overseas, lawmakers and regulatory bodies are posing the question of whether Big Tech has gotten too big. U.S. Senator and presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren has said that as president, she would select regulators who would seek to break up what she called “anti-competitive mergers,” including Facebook’s purchase of Instagram and Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods.
The Associated Press reported that the European Union’s antitrust chief has been conducting an early-stage probe into whether Amazon is using data to gain an edge on third-party merchants who are both customers and rivals. Italy has been investigating whether Amazon abused its dominance by offering preferential treatment to companies that used its own delivery-management services.
Big Tech firms have a ready response to the question of whether they’ve grown too powerful to be held accountable: no, we haven’t.
“Walmart is much larger,” Amazon tweeted in response to Warren’s suggestion that Big Tech firms have gotten anticompetitive and need to be reined in.
In a recent letter to shareholders, CEO Jeff Bezos wrote, “Amazon today remains a small player in global retail. We represent a low single-digit percentage of the retail market, and there are much larger retailers in every country where we operate. And that’s largely because nearly 90% of retail remains offline, in brick and mortar stores.”
That’s not to say that Big Tech firms aren’t expecting scrutiny. In a recent statement, Facebook’s VP of Global Affairs, Nick Clegg, said the company “accepts that with success comes accountability. But, you don’t enforce accountability by calling for the breakup of a successful American company.”
Amazon’s CEO of retail, Jeff Wilke, told CNBC recently that “we think that all significant entities should be scrutinized. But that’s not unusual. Our job is to construct a business that can pass that scrutiny with flying colors.”
However, Wilke skirted the question of whether the company’s practices could cloud the competitive environment. “We’re just focused on customers,” he told CNBC. “It’s too hard to predict what everybody else is going to do. We want to stay focused on what we control, which is a great customer experience.”
Pictured: Amazon headquarters in Seattle
For comments, questions or concerns, please contact Paul Bubny