WASHINGTON – The chief executive officers of four American technology giants denied on Wednesday that their companies wield monopoly power and are guilty of anti-trust violations.
Sundar Pichai (CEO of Google parent Alphabet), Jeff Bezos (Amazon), Tim Cook (Apple) and Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook) said in remote joint testimony at a hearing of the House of Representatives’ Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law that their companies are not as powerful as they are portrayed and in fact are at risk of losing market share to their competitors and may even be forced to cease offering services that, in their view, revitalize small businesses and create high-quality jobs.
Furthermore, the heads of these four tech giants, which have combined annual revenue of nearly $700 billion, more than double the gross domestic product of Colombia, argued that their presence prevents Chinese tech titans from dominating the market landscape.
Zuckerberg, for example, said that in many areas, Facebook is “behind our competitors.”
“The most popular messaging service in the US is iMessage. The fastest growing app is TikTok. The most popular app for video is YouTube. The fastest growing ads platform is Amazon. The largest ads platform is Google,” he added.
He did not mention that WhatsApp, Facebook and Instagram are the leading social media and messaging platforms across much of the planet and that Facebook and Google dominate digital advertising.
Cook, for his part, said Apple does not have a dominant position in any market.
“That is not just true for iPhone; it is true for any product category,” he said.
Democratic lawmakers accused Amazon of forcing third-party sellers on its platform to either comply with its rules or disappear and said Google steals content from other sites. They also alleged that Apple’s App Store guidelines discriminate against app developers and that Facebook’s acquisitions strategy is aimed at eliminating its competition.
Rep. Jerrold Nadler, a Democrat from New York who is the chair of the House Judiciary Committee, said Facebook’s 2012 acquisition of Instagram was illegal because its main objective was to eliminate a competitor, noting that prior to the merger, Zuckerberg had described that company as potentially disruptive.
“I have been clear that Instagram was a competitor in the space of mobile sharing,” Zuckerberg said, recalling that regulators gave their green light to the acquisition.
“We compete with the companies appearing at this hearing, plus many others that sell advertising and connect people,” said the Facebook CEO, who warned that China is boosting its Internet presence and does not share Americans’ values.
Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon, a Democrat from Pennsylvania, noted that Amazon acquired online baby products retailer Diapers.com’s parent company in 2010, saying that it overcame that acquisition target’s resistance by selling diapers at a loss and destroying its business.
Bezos said it was hard for him to recall specifics of that acquisition, but he denied that it had caused harm to consumers in the form of reduced competition.
“Diapers is a very large product category sold in many, many places,” the Amazon CEO said.
Bezos also was questioned about a major anti-trust issue facing his company – the fact that Amazon serves as a platform for other vendors while simultaneously selling its own private-label products.
Amazon has come under increased scrutiny after the Wall Street Journal reported in April that the company uses data it gathers from third-party sellers to gain a competitive advantage.
“We have a policy against using seller-specific data to aid our private-label business,” Bezos said in response to a question by Rep. Pramila Jayapal, a Democrat from Washington, about Amazon’s seller data collection. “But I can’t guarantee you that that policy has never been violated.”
The multi-billionaire founder of Amazon also skirted around his company’s dominant position in e-commerce, noting that the company’s share of the global retail market and US retail market stands at less than 1 percent and 4 percent, respectively.
A Republican lawmaker, Jim Jordan of Ohio, said during the hearing that American big tech companies are biased against conservatives, citing instances when Google, Amazon and Facebook have removed or censored right-wing content.
“We’re 97 days before an election, and the power … these companies have to impact what happens during an election, what American citizens get to see before their voting, is pretty darn important,” the House Judiciary Committee’s ranking member said.
Jordan particularly pressed Pichai to commit to not interfere to help presumed Democratic Party presidential nominee Joe Biden in the lead-up to the November election.
“You have my commitment … we will continue to conduct ourselves in a neutral way,” the Alphabet CEO said.