Jun 16, 2021 - Technology

Connected devices are latest Senate antitrust focus

Photo of an Amazon Echo home speaker
Photo: Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

Senators scrutinized the connected device industry of home assistants, music players and other smart home products Tuesday.

Driving the news: Lawmakers from both parties see the smart speaker market as another area where tech giants like Google and Amazon may take unfair advantage of competitors and users.

Why it matters: Congress's antitrust legislation has focused mostly on the workings of social network and e-commerce platforms. Tuesday's hearing ofthe Senate Judiciary antitrust subcommittee makes it more likely that Senate antitrust bills will also take aim at the connected device market.

What they're saying: Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), chair of the Senate Judiciary antitrust subcommittee, told Axios: "There are 94 million people in the U.S. on at least one connected speaker. Let's get ahead of this, as opposed to just being behind it."

Representatives from both Google and Amazon said interoperability was a goal of their products at the hearing. But they declined to fully commit to the concept on the record, Klobuchar said, which she found concerning.

  • Klobuchar said she'd like to see various systems work with each other seamlessly and incorporate robust privacy protections.

Eddie Lazarus, chief counsel of home sound system company Sonos, testified about Sonos' complaints about both Google and Amazon.

  • Lazarus told Axios: "My sense there is broad support for doing something significant... the connected home space is a subset of the overall enterprise of modernizing antitrust for the digital age."
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