Walmart and giant US retailers turn up heat on Amazon and Google by calling for blockbuster antitrust investigation
- An association of US retail giants, including Walmart, Target, and Best Buy, have backed calls for an antitrust investigation into Amazon and Google.
- The Retail Industry Leaders Association wrote to the Federal Trade Commission with the demand, emphasising the dominance they have over consumer data.
- The Association said Amazon raises "clear antitrust concerns" because of the way it amasses third-party sales data and sells its own products.
- The retailers could be hoping to capitalize on the growing hostility towards big tech in Washington D.C.
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Some of the biggest retailers in America have thrown their weight behind antitrust investigations into Amazon and Google.
The Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA), which counts Walmart, Target, and Best Buy among its members, wrote a 10-page letter to the Federal Trade Commission, saying it would be happy to assist with regulatory probes.
The letter, which is dated June 30, outlines how the Association believes antitrust laws need to be adapted to accommodate big tech companies like Amazon, Google, and Facebook.
In doing so, they could be hoping to capitalize on the growing hostility towards big tech in Washington D.C., where work is underway to investigate if the FAANG companies are abusing their market dominance.
"Our view is that modern antitrust enforcement needs to be driven by a greater recognition that control over information can drive anticompetitive effect just as much as market power and price control," RILA wrote.
One of the main concerns raised in the letter is to do with tech giants controlling how people search online. "It should... be quite concerning to the Commission that Amazon and Google control the majority of all of Internet product search, and can very easily affect whether and how price and product information actually reaches customers," the letter said.
RILA takes particular aim at Amazon for "degrad[ing] the consumer experience on its own platform," and said the company "tends to deceive consumers" by pretending to sell directly from trusted brands, even when those brands choose to remain off the platform and their merchandise is being sold on by third-party sellers.
The letter also raises concerns over Amazon's "anticompetitive uses of data." Specifically, it points out that Amazon both amasses third-party sales data and sells its own products, which RILA said poses "clear antitrust concerns because of the unique characteristics of such a platform."
Citing antitrust scholars at the University of Chicago, the letter said: "By selling logistics services to many of its sellers, Amazon gains an advantage when it wishes to launch a store brand. It can analyze data from its rivals to develop an entry plan against those sellers."
At the end of the letter, RILA said it "stands ready to work with the Commission." RILA's vice president of innovation Nicholas Ahrens reiterated this sentiment in an interview with Bloomberg.
"It's pretty clear to us that the FTC and different relevant regulators should be taking a much closer look at these platform companies," said Ahrens. "We are here to help."
The retailers' letter turns up the heat on rivals like Amazon. Democratic presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren is among those to have said that Amazon's role as both marketplace and vendor is a prime reason for breaking up Jeff Bezos' company.
Last month, reports emerged that the FTC and the Department of Justice have divided up the big tech companies between them for antitrust scrutiny. The FTC is said to have responsibility for Facebook and Amazon, while the DOJ is getting Google and Apple.
Amazon and Google were not immediately available for comment when contacted by Business Insider.