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FTC, DOJ Queried On Potential Antitrust Probes Of Amazon, Other Tech Giants

‘The significant public interest in and allegations surrounding the business conduct of big tech and the leaks concerning the clearance process relating to potential investigations of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google have made these matters highly unusual,’ seven U.S. senators said in letters to the FTC and DOJ.

Seven U.S. senators have asked the Federal Trade Commission and the U.S. Department of Justice about the existence and scope of their potential investigations into four of the largest U.S. technology giants.

Led by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights, the senators requested details about the FTC’s possible antitrust probes of Amazon.com and Facebook and the DOJ’s possible antitrust investigations of Apple and Google.

“Over the years, we have heard numerous complaints about potential anti-competitive conduct by large technology firms, and we have held hearings that have explored these issues,” the senators wrote in a letter to both bodies. “But, given the silence of the FTC and the Justice Department, the truth is that we still do not know if these investigations have actually been initiated and neither do the American people.”

The lawmakers -- who also include Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Edward J. Markey (D-MA) and Tina Smith (D-MN) -- asked for “basic disclosures” about the existence of the probes, noting the FTC and DOJ’s Antitrust Division have yet to provide comment on or corroborate news reports of the potential investigations. While the senators acknowledged that FTC and DOJ policies dictate they typically don’t comment on nonpublic investigations, they noted the “circumstances are far from typical.”

“The significant public interest in and allegations surrounding the business conduct of big tech and the leaks concerning the clearance process relating to potential investigations of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google have made these matters highly unusual,” the senators said.

The senators asked the FTC and DOJ if they’ve opened non-merger, antitrust investigations into the companies or their subsidiaries and, if so, to provide descriptions of the nature and general scopes of those investigations. They also asked if the FTC and DOJ would issue public statements about the general findings and outcomes of any such investigations.

The FTC confirmed receipt of the letter, but said it had no further comment. The DOJ did not immediately respond to CRN inquiries. Both are scheduled to talk about their enforcement efforts at a July 23 hearing of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, according to the letters.

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