Apple’s hardware and software limitations, according to the department, make it difficult for rival companies to compete with iPhones and iPads.
If the lawsuit is filed, each of the four “big” tech companies, Amazon, Meta, and Google, will have been sued in the last five years by the US government for monopolistic practices.
Many countries, including the European Union (EU), Japan, United Kingdom, the US, China, South Korea, India, and Australia, have either implemented or planned to implement competition legislation that is specific to tech companies.
What are antitrust laws exactly? How are tech giants violating these laws?
What is antitrust law?
Antitrust laws were first introduced in the US Sherman Antitrust Act. This law prohibited business agreements that restrained trade and refused attempts at monopolization.
The Sherman Antitrust Act has evolved into the antitrust laws that are in place today, which are adopted by countries around the globe.
Antitrust laws are implemented at the domestic level, and claims of violations of these laws relate to domestic markets. These laws, also called competition laws, prohibit practices that promote unfair competition or monopolies.
Technology products, whether they are apps or physical items like computers and phones, have come under intense scrutiny in recent years. The calls for regulation of the technology development and usage are dominated by.
While the practices of tech titans receive less attention, their business models are still a hot topic. It’s interesting to note that antitrust suits filed against the four biggest companies are not just about their products but also the companies themselves.
These companies, it is alleged, are concentrating on the market. They, therefore, charge higher prices for their products and services and have less incentive to innovate and benefit consumers.
What are the ways that tech giants violate antitrust laws?
Apple isn’t the only one of the four big companies to have been accused of antitrust violations.
Over the last decade, the European Union fined Google an aggregate of EUR8.25bn ($13.6bn) for three distinct violations of EU antitrust laws.
The complaints were about Google Shopping being used to harm competitors (in 2017), Android’s unfair dominance (in 2018), and abusive online advertising (in 2019). 80% of Google’s revenue comes from the advertising business.
Google and Alphabet, its parent company, did make some changes in their practices as a result of these EU rulings. However, Google still hasn’t paid the fines. It continues appealing to them in different instances.
The US Justice Department filed a lawsuit in 2020 against Google, alleging that it monopolized multiple digital advertisement technology products.
In the ongoing lawsuit, Google is accused of monopolizing the “ad tech stack,” the key technologies that publishers and advertisers use for selling and buying ads. Google is accused of acquiring ad tech rivals and eliminating them, forcing publishers and advertisers into using its products.
Read more: The US is taking on Google in a huge antitrust case. It could change the face of online search.
In 2021, the US Federal Trade Commission and more than 40 US states sued Meta, claiming the tech company eliminated competition by buying up its rivals.
Instagram was bought for US$1 Billion in 2013 and WhatsApp for US$19 Billion in 2015. According to the lawsuit, these purchases eliminated competitors who could have challenged Meta’s dominance.
In 2023, the US Federal Trade Commission, along with 17 state attorneys general, sued Amazon. They claimed that the tech company had used unfair and anticompetitive strategies in order to maintain its dominant position in the market.
There are still no rulings on the US lawsuits filed against Google, Meta, and Amazon.
What does Australia do to protect the consumer?
Australian federal authorities have also investigated global tech giants. Since 2021, government investigators have studied legislation to protect Australian consumers.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) bargaining code for news media is one example. The code mandates that digital platforms in Australia pay domestic news publishers for their use of content.
Read more: How 2021 was the year governments really started to wise up against big tech.
Despite these advancements, Chandni Gupta, Deputy CEO and Digital Policy Director at the Consumer Policy Research Centre, points out :
Australia’s consumer and privacy laws both lack protection, leaving Australians less protected online than their counterparts in the US or other countries.
In 2021, the ACCC published its second Digital Platform Services Inquiry interim report. The report found that Google’s Play Store, Apple’s App Store, and other mobile app stores have a significant amount of market power. Is needed to combat this. The ACCC has proposed a number of measures, including increasing transparency and giving consumers a greater choice of default applications.
Gina Cass Gottlieb, ACCC Chair in 2023, publicly addressed the dangers of the four. The commissioner called the tech giants “serial purchasers” and expressed concern about their methods for protecting and extending their market power.
Antitrust laws are in place to ensure fair competition between businesses. Breach of these laws means that companies influence the market at the expense of smaller, often less powerful companies.
If governments succeed in holding tech titans accountable, it could dramatically redefine the tech industry, paving the way for more fair competition and ethical business practices.