Japan is the latest country to join the fight against Big Tech companies. The nation’s antitrust regulator Fair Trade Commission (FTC) can probe market abuses by Big Tech — a term used to refer to companies like Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple — reported Reuters. Japan will join the ranks of the US, European Union and even India and China that are looking to address the growing economic clout of the Big Tech. Kazuyuki Furuya, head of the FTC, reportedly said that Japan could open a probe into any merger or business tie-ups, provided the size of the deals is big enough. FTC is likely to look into the acquisition of FitBit for possible monopolistic behaviour by Google.

Google’s acquisition of the wearables company has been pending since November 2019, when it was first announced. The deal ran into trouble in the EU, which launched an in-depth probe, concerned over Google’s possible of FitBit data to improve its advertisement services.

Furuya said that Japan is closely watching antitrust developments, including in Europe. He also indicated at the formation of a global alliance of sorts: FTC will work closely with its US and European counterparts to respond to anti-competitive moves. Furuya explained that Big Tech have similar practices across the globe, hence necessitating global coordination. Within Japan, FTC will reportedly research the country’s mobile phone market to see if it can spur more competition in it.

Global distrust of Big Tech

United State of America: Big Tech companies have been under intense scrutiny from the US government in the recent past. The US House’s subcommittee on antitrust had recently conducted high-profile hearings on Big Tech, wherein they summoned the heads of Amazon (Jeff Bezos), Google (Sundar Pichai), Apple (Tim Cook) and Facebook (Mark Zuckerberg). From Apple’s App store policies, Facebook’s copying of competition, Google’s dominance in the advertising market to Amazon’s cloud business, everything under the sun was discussed in these hearings. The House Judiciary Committee, in a report submitted on Big Tech, has called for radical overhauls to antitrust law that are enforced strictly going forward.

European Union: Earlier this week, France and Netherlands, two prominent members of the EU, jointly called for breaking up of Big Tech companies. They called on EU regulators to take swift actions against the emerging technology giants. Europe has traditionally been a minefield for companies where they have gotten into trouble for misusing market dominance. For instance, in 2018 Google had been fined €4.34 billion by EU for abusing its dominance in the mobile OS market, setting the precedent of fining companies on the basis of their global revenues rather than local. The European Commission’s proposed Digital Services Act (DSA) also has several anti-competition provisions to put a check on Big Tech in areas of data sharing, digital marketplaces and so on.

India: India too has been picking up the mantle against Google and Amazon. The Competition Commission of India (CCI) recently opened an investigation against Google for its alleged misuse of its dominance in the smart TV market. This is the fourth such antitrust case against the company in the India. Earlier, CCI had fined Google ₹135.86 crore for abusing its dominance of Google Search. A more recent case involves Google’s alleged promotion of it payments app Google Pay. Another involves an ongoing probe into Google’s alleged abuse of its dominance in the smartphone market. Google had been accused of making it harder for phone makers to choose alternate versions of Android.

Australia: Australia has launched an investigation into Google and Apple’s business practices in the smartphone OS market. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is looking into whether Apple’s App Store and Google Play Store are being used to stifle competition and make it difficult for new players to enter the market.

China: Even China is taking a stand against Big Tech, even though most of these companies have very few business interests in the country due to the Great Internet Firewall. China is reportedly preparing to launch an antitrust probe into Google, based on complaints from Chinese smartphone maker Huawei. Huawei had reportedly complained to China’s antitrust regulator that by cancelling Huawei’s Android licence, Google has caused “extreme damage” to Chinese companies such as itself.

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