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US House committee says Amazon, Google, Apple, Facebook engaged in monopolistic behavior

Investigation recommends stronger antitrust actions, but requires Congressional approval for further action

A US House of Representative antitrust committee has completed a 15-month investigation into potential violations by Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google, concluding that the four tech giants have all engaged in monopolistic practices.

The investigation has concluded with a 449-page report, which states that the four companies have "captured control over key channels of distribution and have come to function as gatekeepers."

Specifically, the committee targets Facebook for its monopoly over social networking, Google for general online search and search advertising as well as anticompetitive contracts connected to Android, Amazon for the online retail market, and Apple for the mobile operating system market.

"To put it simply, companies that once were scrappy, underdog startups that challenged the status quo have become the kinds of monopolies we last saw in the era of oil barons and railroad tycoons," the report opens.

"Although these firms have delivered clear benefits to society, the dominance of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google has come at a price. These firms typically run the marketplace while also competing in it -- a position that enables them to write one set of rules for others, while they play by another, or to engage in a form of their own private quasi regulation that is unaccountable to anyone but themselves."

Included in the report is mention of both Google and Apple's current legal fights with Epic Games over Fortnite, with the committee accusing both platforms of using its "gatekeeper power" to charge high fees to mobile developers, and specifically targeting Apple's prevention of other payment or access alternatives to its App Store on iOS devices.

The committee recommends a series of reforms to combat monopolistic practices, including nondiscrimination requirements to keep dominant platforms from pushing their own services over others, prohibitions against future mergers and acquisitions by the dominant platforms, strengthening of existing antitrust laws, restoring "robust congressional oversight" of antitrust laws, and removal of enforcement against forced arbitration clauses, limits on class action lawsuits, and other similar obstacles to enforcement.

For now, these remain only recommendations, with Congressional approval required for any stronger antitrust measures to take effect.

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