Leading antitrust legislator frustrated by Google’s agreement with Fitbit

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Lawmakers insisted on America’s biggest antitrust opponents on Google technology giant’s probes, Alphabet (Google)GOOGL.O), Facebook (FB.O), Amazon (AMZN.O) and Apple (AAPL.OOn Wednesday, the chair of a House subcommittee expressed his frustration at the continued corporate acquisitions.

FILE PHOTO: The Fitbit Blaze watch is seen in front of a Google logo displayed on this photo taken in illustration, November 8, 2019. REUTERS / Dado Ruvic

At a hearing of the antitrust subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee, Makan Delrahim, head of the antitrust division of the Department of Justice, said his investigative team was trying to understand the operation of personalized advertising transactions. Facebook and Google, in particular, depend on advertising for their income.

“By understanding this competitive dynamic, we can understand how market leaders hold monopoly power, how they exercise this monopoly and whether the source of that power is merit-based competition or the source of that power is exclusion” said Delrahim.

The Ministry of Justice and the committee study the four companies while the Federal Trade Commission is investigating Facebook and Amazon. Groups of dozens of attorneys general are also investigating Google and Facebook.

Delrahim said the ministry was working with states on their probes. “We continue to coordinate with the state governments on the two issues that have been made public,” said Delrahim.

The representative of David Cicilline, chairman of the subcommittee, said that Google has continued its acquisitions despite numerous antitrust investigations, highlighting the proposed acquisition of Looker and Fitbit. The acquisition of Looker, a private data analytics company, was approved last week.

“The pride of the management team to pursue an acquisition of this size,” he said, citing his offer of $ 2.1 billion for Fitbit, “while antitrust investigations conducted by the federal government and the states are amazing. ”

Google’s interest in Fitbit Inc, a US manufacturer of portable devices, is a part of the crowded market of fitness trackers and smartwatches.

Watch groups such as Public Citizen and the Center for Digital Democracy, among others, urged the FTC on Wednesday to block the deal.

“Google knows more about us than any other company, and it should not be allowed to add another way to track every move,” they said in a letter.

The Republicans of the committee, on the whole, have called for caution in investigating the largest and most successful businesses in America, with Representative Doug Collins warning of a punishment for success.

“Companies that offer new innovations, better solutions, and more consumer benefits at lower prices often become big for the benefit of society. Proposals to dismantle large companies because of their size may throw the baby out with the bathwater, “he said.

Report by Diane Bartz and Nandita Bose; Edited by Tom Brown

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