DOJ Tells Big Tech That Old Antitrust Rules Do Apply

Makan Delrahim, the assistant attorney at the U.S. Department of Justice, said Tuesday (June 11) that enforcement actions in the past against Standard Oil and AT&T can be a blueprint for going after tech giants that potentially engaged in anti-competitive behavior.

Speaking during a conference in Israel, Reuters reported Delrahim said the Justice Department had taken other large corporations to court over anti-competitive behavior and won. He pointed to the breakup of Standard Oil and AT&T decades ago. He argued that, similar to the big technology companies of today, Standard Oil was a tech leader and grew up during times of great technological changes. What’s more, he said consumers actually saw lower prices during Standard Oil’s years of leading. As for AT&T, Delrahim said AT&T had defended its refusal to connect companies to its long-distance lines by saying it provided consumers with better prices and innovation.

Delrahim said the antitrust division of the Justice Department looks for rising prices, lower quality, loss of privacy and collusion when looking to see if a company violated antitrust laws. He said it also looks for cases in which there are exclusive deals that hurt rival companies on purpose.  The DoJ official also said tech companies need to stop getting bigger by engaging in mergers. “Acquisitions of nascent competitors can be pro-competitive in certain instances and anti-competitive in others,” he said. “I will note the potential for mischief if the purpose and effect of an acquisition is to block potential competitors, protect a monopoly, or otherwise harm competition.”

Earlier in June Reuters reported the Justice Department is gearing up to launch an investigation into Google to find out if it engaged in antitrust practices. The U.S. Department of Justice joins other regulators in going after Google for anti-competitive behaviors. The European Union has already fined Google billions of dollars and called for reforms of how it does business. The impending lawsuit comes as The Washington Post reported the Justice Department and Federal Trade Commission inked a deal to split oversight of Google and Facebook. The FTC gets more jurisdiction over Facebook while The Department of Justice gets increased scrutiny of Google.



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