IThe American Congress has had several high-profile hearings with prominent representatives of the technology industry. Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of the social network Facebook, was cited in Washington two years ago when the Cambridge Analytica data scandal shook his company. A few years earlier, Tim Cook, the chief executive of the electronics company Apple, justified the tax practices in his house at a hearing.
This Wednesday, however, there is now a special spectacle on the program: Four heads of board of American technology giants are to testify in front of a committee of the House of Representatives.
In addition to Zuckerberg and Cook, these are Jeff Bezos from online retailer Amazon.com and Sundar Pichai from Alphabet Holding around internet company Google. Jeff Bezos should be the focus of attention, not only because he is currently the richest person in the world, but also because, unlike his colleagues, he is facing such a hearing for the first time.
The FTC also investigated
According to the congress committee, the event aims to examine the “dominance” of the four companies. The panel started investigations a little over a year ago, revolving around “the market power of the gigantic tech platforms”.
And this is just one of several institutions in the US government that are currently dealing with competition issues in the industry. The Ministry of Justice and the consumer protection agency FTC have also initiated antitrust investigations.
This heightened pressure comes after the American government has long been accused of being too lenient with the major technology companies. A cartel case against Google, for example, was largely unsuccessful some time ago. In contrast, the EU Commission has imposed several billion fines on the company. According to media reports, a cartel lawsuit against Google could now also arise in America in the near future.
Share prices at all-time highs
The hearing on Wednesday is likely to be somewhat different than usual due to the Corona crisis. The four CEOs are expected to testify via video conference, so they are unlikely to be in Washington on site. The usual television pictures, in which CEOs stand in front of politicians and raise their hands to take an oath, are thus eliminated.
This should be in the interests of the managers, as well as the fact that the hearing deals with four instead of just one company and therefore the chances are less that a single manager is under hours of constant fire.
The focus of the hearing is on the power of the large technology groups, although the focus may vary from company to company. A central topic in the questions to Jeff Bezos is likely to be Amazon’s marketplace for third-party companies. The company recently found itself in a need for explanation after a media report saying it used the data from these third-party providers to develop competing products. The EU Commission launched an investigation into this issue last year.