retail news in context, analysis with attitude

The Washington Post this morning reports that the US Department of Justice is preparing to launch an antitrust probe of Google, which would, the story says, “could present a major new layer of regulatory scrutiny for the search giant … the department is preparing to closely examine Google’s business practices related to its search and other businesses.”

At the same time, the Post reports that the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is getting ready to conduct tougher oversight of Amazon, noting that “politicians have long raised concerns that Amazon’s dominance in online retail — as well as its growing reach across a variety of business fields — has given it too much power. It holds sway over third-party sellers on its site, who pay for advertising to compete against first-party and private-label sales by Amazon. Its low prices also have helped it draw customer spending at the expense of brick-and-mortar competitors.”

Some context from the Post:

“The rise of big tech has seen three corporate titans that didn’t exist 30 years ago—Amazon, Google, and Facebook—suddenly amassing the power to sway large parts of the U.S. economy and society, from the stock market to political discourse, from personal shopping habits to how small businesses sell their wares.
With their enormous size and dominance have come network advantages, data caches and economies of scale that can make it challenging for new rivals to succeed. Many firms that compete with those giants in one sector also depend on their platforms to reach customers, and they complain of being unfairly squeezed.

“Supporters of the big tech companies say there is so much dynamism in the sector that the giants are sure to be knocked off soon. However, their power and reach keep growing.

“Antitrust leaders at the Justice Department and the FTC have publicly acknowledged the competition concerns and said those issues merit close attention.”
KC's View:
The Post makes the point that investigating the big tech companies may be one of those rare issues on which there is bipartisan support, even if there are differing motivations. Some Republicans believe that big tech has a liberal bias, while some Democrats think that big tech is just another, insidious version of big business interests against which they traditionally have inveighed.

I have no problem with oversight and regulation - if they are nuanced and rooted in what is best for the American citizenry, not knee-jerk political responses from either side that feed their individual beasts rather than raise the level of discourse.