As part of an ongoing probe of competition in digital markets that involves Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon, the U.S. House Judiciary Committee this week sent a letter to each company demanding to know whether their CEOs will testify in hearings set to take place in July, reports Axios.
The antitrust investigators want to know by Sunday whether Apple, Google parent company Alphabet, Amazon, and Facebook will have their CEOs attend the hearings voluntarily. They’re also seeking a number of materials related to other competition probes and internal communications, with the letters asking questions “on issues related to possible competitive harms.”
According to Axios, the letters suggest the Judiciary Committee could send out subpoenas to force testimony and document production if the companies do not comply.
“These are documents that are essential to complete our ongoing, bipartisan investigation of the digital marketplace,” antitrust subcommittee chairman David Cicilline said in a statement. “This is the appropriate process to secure their production.”
The United States Department of Justice last July launched a broad antitrust review into whether major technology companies are unlawfully stifling competition.
In September 2019, the U.S. House Judiciary Committee sent a letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook requesting details on documents and communications related to the App Store, product repairs, and seller agreements with Amazon.
Much of the focus was on Apple’s App Store policies, with questions about the removal of parental control apps from the App Store, how search result rankings are determined, how Apple’s in-app purchase mechanism works, whether apps are permitted to include in-app links to non-Apple payment systems, policies surrounding setting non-Apple apps as default, and more.
Later that year, investigators began questioning third-party app makers, include those who make parental control apps that were impacted by the release of Apple’s Screen Time feature and new App Store restrictions on apps abusing Mobile Device Management.
Apple has been accused of anticompetitive business practices when it comes to the App Store, with some developers and companies claiming that Apple’s own apps, features, and services have a significant advantage over third-party apps. Spotify, for example, has complained that Apple Music has a distinct advantage because Spotify has to pay Apple a portion of its subscription fees.
With the investigation, U.S. House Judiciary Committee is aiming to produce a report on the findings from the probe that has recommendations for updating antitrust laws.
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