Are Amazon, Google about to feel full force of US antitrust scrutiny?

The US's two top antitrust regulators have reportedly split duties for investigating Amazon and Google.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer

After years of scrutiny by EU competition watchdogs, Google and Amazon could soon be facing more attention, this time from US regulators. 

According to the Washington Post, responsibilities for competition oversight for the two tech giants have been divvied up between the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Department of Justice (DOJ). 

The FTC is tipped to take on Amazon while the DOJ will have jurisdiction over a possible Google probe. 

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The FTC and DOJ are the top US agencies for investigating antitrust issues. The DOJ took over the antitrust investigation of Microsoft from the FTC in the 1990s and reached a settlement with Microsoft in 2001, which imposed decade-long rules affecting Widows and Internet Explorer that created space for products like Google search, the Chrome browser, and Facebook to emerge.

It's not yet known what the two agencies interests are in Amazon and Google. However, the Washington Post notes that the arrangement between the two often foreshadows greater antitrust scrutiny. Neither agency has commented on whether plans for investigations of each company are underway.  

Details of the deal between the FTC and DOJ follow the FTC's February announcement of a new taskforce to monitor the US tech industry and markets for online advertising, social networking, mobile operating systems and apps, and platform businesses.   

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Google has already been slapped with massive fines over its anti-competitive tactics relating to Android and online advertising.

Meanwhile, US politicians are talking tougher about big tech companies, which could be influencing public opinion and attitudes in Washington. 

US President Donald Trump thinks Google results are rigged against him. He's also taken many swipes at Amazon over it allegedly paying too little tax in the US and its use of the US Postal Service for deliveries. Trump has also accused the Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos of using the Washington Post, which Bezos owns, to further Amazon's lobbying efforts.  

Top Democrat presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren in March outlined a proposal for breaking up big tech, arguing they've got too much influence over the economy, society, and politics, while stifling competition, innovation, and small businesses. Her plan would reverse Amazon's acquisition of Whole Foods and Facebook's purchase of WhatsApp and Instagram.

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Apparently there is a new appetite within both major political parties in Washington for a crackdown on big tech. CNBC quotes Silicon Valley antitrust lawyer Gary Reback, who helped get the Microsoft antitrust case off the ground and today has clients who have complained about Google. 

"I've been taking companies to Washington where they've complained about Google for a long time and there were politicians blocking it once, but the blockers aren't there anymore," Reback said. 

"I don't know if it's the Trump administration that triggered it exactly but it could have been what broke the dam."

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