The FTC, after almost two years of investigation and intense lobbying, closed its antitrust investigation of Google in January 2013. Google was able to make some concessions, and even escaped significant penalties. At the time, FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz said, “The law protects competition, not competitors.”
But from the moment the decision was made, critics where calling for round two. According to a number of reports, the US Justice Department (DOJ) and FTC have come to an agreement to divide up potential new antitrust inquiries involving Google and Amazon. The DOJ will take on Google, and the FTC will be taking Amazon.
According to the NY Times, the broad and vague areas of inquiry are Google’s “advertising and search practices.” There’s a chance that these are the same issues and questions the Europeans have been focused on for the past six years. The FTC, which had formed a task force to “monitor competition in U.S. technology market,” now referers all Google-related antitrust questions and matters to the DOJ, according to multiple reports.
The potential inquiry into Amazon is pretty vague, but reportedly, it will look at whether or not Amazon’s business practices are adversely impacting competition, as well as if it wields too much power in the online retail economy. It was reported by Bloomberg that Amazon had been “purging” SMB suppliers on the platform. Amazon denied the charge, but this could be relevant to the antitrust investigation.
Republicans and Democrats now have complaints against these companies (as well as Facebook), but the issues that each side has, as well as the motivations, differ.