In Washington, the CEOs of the world’s largest tech companies Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google have had to defend themselves against accusations of dominating the market. The House of Representatives Justice Committee asked the four leaders whether the companies have become too big and too powerful.
“These tech giants have naturally had a huge impact on the daily lives of all of us in recent years,” said correspondent Marieke de Vries. “The committee is investigating whether they have been given too much power, for example over our privacy data. And whether there is still room for competitors.”
The hearing is part of a much broader investigation, which the committee has been dealing with for over a year. Each committee member was given five minutes per CEO, per subject, to ask questions.
The opening statement by Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook), Jeff Bezos (Amazon), Tim Cook (Apple) and Sundar Pichai (Google) was known in advance. They pointed out that their companies have fueled the US economy and innovation.
First heard by Congress, Bezos argued that supermarket chain Walmart is twice the size of Amazon and that its company should operate in a global and highly competitive market.
Sundar Pichai of Google explained that global competition keeps prices falling, while products are getting better all the time. In the advertising market, this competition is also fierce, which is pushing rates and the consumer benefits from this, says Pichai.
Apple’s Tim Cook emphasized that the rates that the smartphone and computer manufacturer uses to sell its products through its App Store are reasonable and that they have not increased in the more than ten years that it has existed. Apple is not a market leader in the markets in which it operates, he said.
Listen here to the podcast The Day about the pros and cons of Apple ‘s App Store .
Because of the corona measures, the top executives participated via a video connection. Later this year, the committee will issue a report with recommendations, such as how the tech companies should be regulated.
“This committee of inquiry cannot intervene itself,” says De Vries. “For example, they can’t force companies to split up so they can get smaller. But they can bring about stricter regulations and stricter laws.”
Republican delegates wonder if the tech companies are giving them too little space for unwelcome conservative views. In any case, President Trump sees it this way: he tweeted that he will tackle the concerns by presidential decree if he does not like the results of the hearing.