A group of the largest U.S. retailers is backing a potential antitrust probe by the Trump administration into Google and Amazon, claiming the vast advertising, search and data collection operations of the two big tech firms create an unfair advantage that is detrimental for consumers.
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The White House is dividing up oversight of Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple between the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission.
It remains unclear how sweeping of investigation the administration is plotting, but Trump has alluded several times to the potentially monopolistic power of the tech giants, even alleging that Google is trying to undermine his 2020 presidential election. The Mountain View, California-based company has denied that its products have any sort of political leaning.
Now, the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA), which represents companies including Walmart, Home Depot, Target and Best Buy, is backing the White House’s probe efforts.
In a letter published Sunday to the FTC, the group called on the agency to "focus on ensuring that competition among retailers actually benefits consumers, rather than seeing those benefits stifled by dominant players and persistent oligopolies.”
A Google spokesperson did not respond to request for comment. An Amazon spokesperson declined to comment on the letter. The company has repeatedly touted that it represents less than 4 percent of U.S. retail sales.
Among the biggest complaints from RILA is Amazon's and Google’s control of product and pricing information in internet searches that “has the power to skew markets and shape consumer behavior in ways that circumvent the traditional power of price competition.”
“A firm does not need to have the power to control prices if it has the power to control effective access to price information,” the group wrote.
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The quality of the products offered by Google, Amazon and other tech giants have degraded as the firms have assumed their immense market control, according to RILA, and their data collection practices violate user privacy.
“Though these are non-price harms, they should easily suffice to place further acquisitions, exclusionary conduct, or deceptive interfaces and advertisements created by these dominant companies under the heaviest possible scrutiny,” the letter reads.
In regards to Amazon, RILA charged that the Seattle-based firm suggests that every product or brand is available on its signature marketplace “even though that is not true and tends to deceive consumers.”
“It allows Amazon to erode the brand loyalty through which these retailers compete,” the group wrote.