US tech giants answer questions on business practices amid House probe


Four U.S. tech giants facing antitrust scrutiny defended their business practices in answers submitted to the House Judiciary Committee as part of its ongoing probe into potential anti-competitive behavior.

The committee is conducting one of several antitrust probes into U.S. tech firms amid mounting scrutiny about data privacy and their impact on various industries. Facebook, Amazon, Alphabet-owned Google and Apple were each asked to respond to queries.

In its responses, Amazon addressed a long list of questions regarding its dealings with third-party sellers on its Marketplace platform. The e-commerce giant has faced allegations from several critics, including Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren, that it uses data compiled from third-party vendors to develop its own versions of popular products that are then given preferential treatment on its platform.

AMAZON DEFENDS BUSINESS PRACTICES TOWARD THIRD-PARTY SELLERS AT ANTITRUST HEARING

Amazon said its internal rules prohibit the use of sales data to inform product launches or prices for private-label offerings.

“Like every store owner, Amazon collects data about sales in its store to constantly improve the shopping experience for its customers, as well as the selling experience for its selling partners,” the company said in a letter to the committee.

The committee’s questions for Apple centered on its Safari browser and how it is presented to consumers using the iPhone maker’s products, as well as its various efforts to monetize and share revenue from its App Store and the business around its repair services. The company noted it does not keep track of the number of its employees or contracts who are subject to mandatory arbitration clauses in their employment contracts.

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Google fielded a variety of questions related to its data collection practices and search engine. The company said that its search engine is not designed to direct users to its own products, such as YouTube or the Chrome video browsers, over similar services offered to its rivals.

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The company also declined to offer specific data on how many user searches are directed to Google pages but said “the vast majority” of searches direct outside of Google’s ecosystem.

In its responses, Facebook acknowledged that it shut down access to the third-party video app Vine, arguing that it determined the service had replicated its own News Feed. The company declined to specify what led it to restrict access to various other apps, such as Phhhoto and Voxer, other than to say that they were found to be in violation of its policies.

In the case of Stackla, Facebook said it shuttered access due to its use of data scraping. Facebook denied that it has restricted any app that failed to purchase an adequate number of ads on its platform.

Reuters was first to report on the companies’ responses.

The Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission have separate, active antitrust probes into various large U.S. tech firms.

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