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RILA urges closer antitrust scrutiny of Amazon, Google

Retail trade association asks FTC to verify that online retail platforms allow fair competition.

A 10-page letter to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) signed by Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) COO Brian Dodge and dated June 30, requests that the FTC ensure that new, technology-enabled retail business practices receive antitrust scrutiny – and action if necessary.

RILA is a trade organization of more than 200 retailers, including Walmart, Target, and Walgreens Boots Alliance. The letter states concerns that certain firms have significant market power in the “information infrastructure” – websites, apps and tools needed to digitally connect with customers. Specific concerns include potentially excessive fees or other undue restrictions placed by ISPs, as well Amazon and Google possibly using their control of online product search to their own advantage.

“(C)ontrol over information can drive anticompetitive effects just as much as market power and price control,” states the letter. As an example, RILA says that Amazon is able to collect massive amounts of consumer shopping data since it serves as a primary product search platform as well an e-commerce platform, giving it capability to engage in deceptive or anticompetitive conduct.

The letter also states that Amazon and other large online retail platforms “steer consumers to particular products and…create the illusion of having a product even if the desired brand is not sold on the platform.” Furthermore, RILA says Amazon can unfairly gather data on competing retailers that also sell products on its platform.

RILA concludes the letter by stating it is ready to work with the FTC in reviewing antitrust enforcement and competition in 21st century retail.

In early June, multiple news reports indicated that the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Department of Justice (DOJ) had agreed to split up antitrust oversight of tech giants Amazon, Google, Facebook, and Apple. In March 2019, presidential hopeful and Democratic senator from Massachusetts Elizabeth Warren publicly called for the federal government to break up the “monopolies” of Amazon, Google, and Facebook.
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