Makan Delrahim, the US Department of Justice’s (DOJ) antitrust chief, said that low prices and free products would not shield digital monopolists from scrutiny to group of tech experts, reported the Financial Times.
The remarks by Mr Delrahim at a conference in Israel followed moves by US antitrust enforcers to prepare competition investigations into Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Apple. The speech, which referenced US trust busting from Standard Oil to AT&T and Microsoft, was the latest sign of the shifting attitude in Washington towards Silicon Valley.
“There are only one or two significant players in important digital spaces, including internet search, social networks, mobile and desktop operating systems, and electronic book sales,” he said. “This is true in certain input markets as well. For example, just two firms take in the lion’s share of online ad spending.”
Delrahim said the Antitrust Division of the Justice Department looks for rising prices, lower quality, loss of privacy, and collusion when looking to see if a company violated antitrust laws. He said it also looks for cases in which there are exclusive deals that hurt rival companies on purpose. The DOJ official also said tech companies need to stop getting bigger by engaging in mergers. “Acquisitions of nascent competitors can be pro-competitive in certain instances and anti-competitive in others,” he said. “I will note the potential for mischief if the purpose and effect of an acquisition is to block potential competitors, protect a monopoly, or otherwise harm competition.”