Feb 11, 2020 - Technology

FTC reviewing a decade of Big Tech acquisitions

Photo of statue outside FTC HQ
Statue outside FTC headquarters in Washington. Photo: Chris Maddaloni/Roll Call/Getty Images

The Federal Trade Commission announced Tuesday it is investigating acquisitions made by Amazon, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, and Alphabet/Google from 2010 on.

Why it matters: As pressure mounts to regulate Big Tech companies as monopolies, the FTC is one of two arms of the federal government empowered to enforce antitrust law, along with the Justice Department.

Driving the news: The FTC is examining prior acquisitions that were not previously reported to antitrust authorities to learn whether large tech companies are buying up small potential competitors in an anticompetitive manner, the agency said in a release.

  • “This initiative will enable the commission to take a closer look at acquisitions in this important sector, and also to evaluate whether the federal agencies are getting adequate notice of transactions that might harm competition," FTC Chairman Joe Simons said in a statement. “This will help us continue to keep tech markets open and competitive, for the benefit of consumers.
  • The FTC is conducting the inquiry using its Section 6(b) power, which allows the agency to seek business information for a wide-ranging study that is not part of a specific law enforcement investigation.
  • But, in a call with reporters, Simons wouldn't rule out the study ultimately leading to enforcement action. He said all options are on the table, including unwinding acquisitions that the agency finds to be anticompetitive.
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