The Central Economic Work Conference held from December 16 to 18 determined that “strengthening anti-monopoly and preventing capital disorderly expansion” was one of the key tasks next year, which was the third time that anti-monopoly work was deployed at the central level in nearly a month.
In fact, in the face of the Internet as a “super platform”, antitrust law enforcement agencies in various countries and economies have adopted a tough regulatory attitude and restrictive measures, and strengthening anti-monopoly supervision has become a global trend.
Prohibition of restricting competitive bundled sales
Antitrust disputes over Internet companies in Europe and the United States can be traced back to the last century – the 1998 U.S. government v. Microsoft is the most typical anti-monopoly case in the technology industry.
In 1995, Microsoft’s competitor Netscape launched a web browser that was very popular. Microsoft developed the Internet to suppress Netscape.
Explorer (IE) browsers, and when preinstalling the Windows operating system for computer manufacturers, sells IE browsers through exclusive contracts. In 1996, computer manufacturers such as Netscape and Compaq jointly complained to Microsoft to the U.S. Department of Justice. In 1998, the U.S. Department of Justice and the Attorney General of 20 states jointly sued Microsoft for violating the antitrust law on the grounds that Microsoft’s personal computer Windows operating system forced the bundled sale of IE browsers.
The case ended in a settlement between Microsoft and the U.S. government in 2001. In the end, Microsoft’s “bundling” of the IE browser and the Windows operating system was not illegal, nor did it require Microsoft to “unbundle”, but limited the terms Microsoft’s proposal to computer manufacturers.
Although the U.S. Department of Justice’s lawsuit against Microsoft was settled, Microsoft’s undue competition dispute in the rest of the world has not ended, and most of these cases ended in losing.
In 2004, the South Korean Fair Trade Commission ruled that Microsoft was suspected of using its monopoly position for unfair competition, fined it $32 million, and asked Microsoft to launch a Windows operating system for the South Korean market within 180 days, which excludes Microsoft’s own video and instant chat software.
The EU antitrust agency fined Microsoft 497 million euros for bundling up its own video software with the Windows operating system, and ordered Microsoft to modify the Windows operating system within 90 days. In July of the same year, the Japan Fair Trading Commission issued a letter of advice to Microsoft, believing that Microsoft forced personal computer manufacturers to accept “not exercising patent terms”, suggested that it be deleted, and investigated its suspected related monopoly behavior.
In 2018, Internet giant Google was also penalized by the European Union for similar bundled sales. On July 18, 2018, the European Union announced a fine of 4.34 billion euros (about $5 billion) to Google to punish Google for taking advantage of its own market monopoly of the Android operating system to forcibly bundle Google search services and Google Chrome browser. The behavior of
Limit traffic distribution tilt
Wang Yifeng, an analyst at Everbright Securities, pointed out that among Internet giants, the centralized traffic platform mostly has control over traffic distribution, which leads to its own traffic distribution, which is easy to tilt its own traffic advantage to its own business, and there is a situation of “being both a referee and an athlete”. The most typical of these is the EU’s penalty of 2.4 billion euros for Google.
On June 27, 2017, the European Union fined Google of 2.42 billion euros ($2.7 billion) for violating EU competition regulations. This figure also breaks the record of 1.06 billion euros fine issued by the European Union in 2009.
The EU statement pointed out that after Google entered the shopping comparison market, it used its dominant position in the online search field to manipulate search results and unfairly led customers to its own shopping services. It is understood that the amount of antitrust penalties imposed by the European Union in the past three years has exceeded 9 billion US dollars.
On November 10, India’s antitrust regulator announced that it had launched an antitrust investigation against Google, citing Google’s alleged abuse of its Play Store’s dominance in promoting its payment services in the world’s largest Internet market.
On December 10, France issued a fine of 100 million euros to Google.
Restrict the abuse of big data technology to monopolize
European and American countries have opened strong supervision over the abuse of big data dominant position by Internet platforms for improper benefits.
In early December, the European Union accused Amazon of using its size, power and “big data” to gain an improper competitive advantage over third-party sellers of its platform.
Recently, the first phase of the European Union’s investigation into Amazon has been concluded, and it is initially determined that the company has maliciously competed. According to the analysis, Amazon will face a fine of up to 10% of its global turnover next year, which may reach up to $37 billion.
In a statement, Margaret Westag, Executive Vice President and Commissioner for Competition and Antitrust Affairs, said that from January to November 2020, European e-commerce sales surged to 7.2 billion euros due to the epidemic. Amazon occupies an important position in European e-commerce, and most French and German consumers will shop on this platform.
By sampling and analyzing Amazon’s 80 million transaction records and 100 million products in the European market, it is found that the products and transaction data of third-party sellers can be seen by Amazon, so that Amazon can optimize its products, prices and other management according to the actual situation.
The European Union believes that Amazon’s approach will lead to the inability to protect the interests of third-party sellers. Amazon’s self-operated products account for only 10% of the total products, but the marketing volume exceeds half. Meanwhile, France issued an antitrust ticket of 35 million euros to Amazon.
Strengthen platform anti-monopoly supervision
In recent years, the United States has continuously intensified its antitrust investigation of Internet technology giants. In October this year, after a 16-month investigation, the U.S. House Judiciary Committee released a 449-page technology antitrust investigation, pointing to the abuse of market dominance, suppress competitors, hinder innovation and damage to the four major technology giants of Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon. Consumer interests.
The investigation is only an “appetizer”, rectification is the key, and the first one to be asked for rectification is Google.
On October 20, the U.S. Department of Justice, together with the attorney general of 11 states, launched an antitrust lawsuit against Google, accusing it of illegally maintaining a monopoly position in the search and search advertising market through anti-competitive and exclusive behavior. This is the most important antitrust case in the world since the Microsoft case in 2000.
At a press conference announcing the indictment, the U.S. Deputy Attorney General said that the possibility of spin-off of Google would not be ruled out. If Google faces a split, it will be the first domestic U.S. company to be ordered to be split by a U.S. court in the past decades.
On December 17, Google was sued by antitrust after more than a month. U.S. regulators accused it of violating antitrust laws and illegally maintaining a monopoly on search engines and search advertising markets through a series of anti-competitive behaviors.
According to incomplete statistics, in the past four years, the four major technology giants of Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon have been deeply involved in antitrust investigations around the world, including 27 cases facing Google, 22 cases facing Amazon and Apple, and 13 facing Facebook, including the European Union from 2017 to 2019.
For the third consecutive year, the cumulative amount of antitrust penalties imposed on Google exceeded $9 billion.
“The basic judgment of the U.S. antitrust law is to have a negative impact on consumer rights and interests, especially the economic interests of consumers, rather than simply ‘block competition,'” Zhang Taisu, a professor at Yale Law School, told the media.
Strictly supervise illegal mergers and acquisitions
In early December, after a year and a half of antitrust investigation, the Federal Trade Commission, the federal antitrust regulator, filed an antitrust lawsuit against Facebook, accusing Facebook of blocking the market from acquiring two rivals, Instagram and WhatsApp. Competition. According to the indictment, Zuckerberg has made it clear that he made the acquisition to stop the growth of competitors.
According to the introduction, Facebook bought Instagram, the photo community application for $1 billion in 2012, and WhatsApp, an instant messaging app, for $19 billion in 2014.
Both social networking companies may have become Facebook’s main competitors, but Zuckerberg quickly pocketed the two competitors at an irresible price, effectively resolving his direct threat in the social field.
The U.S. Federal Trade Commission’s antitrust lawsuit against Facebook is significantly different from the previous case against Google: the investigation against Google is limited to business operations in the search and advertising fields, while the lawsuit against Facebook focuses on their mergers and acquisitions of competitors.
Since Microsoft’s antitrust lawsuit in 1998, the United States has not filed a truly heavyweight antitrust lawsuit against technology giants in the past two decades. Moreover, most of the previous antitrust cases focused on market competition operations, including IBM in the 1970s, AT&T in the 1980s and Microsoft in the 1990s, and rarely involved mergers and acquisitions by giant companies.
The U.S. Federal Trade Commission’s indictment explicitly asked the court to spin off Facebook’s two major businesses and also requested that Facebook be banned from continuing to acquire in the future.
Ma Chao, a financial technology expert, pointed out that in a sense, it is the European and American countries that have restricted Microsoft, IBM and other technology giants through anti-monopoly that has promoted the birth and growth of Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon and other Internet emerging talents.
Nowadays, IBM and AT&T in the United States have been dismantled again and again, and the antitrust investigation of Facebook, Google and other countries in Europe and the United States is also the purpose of promoting fair competition in the market.
On December 15, the European Union announced the Digital Services Act and the Digital Market Act, which sets stricter rules for some Internet giants to do business in the EU.
“We want to ensure that users have access to a wide range of security products and services online, ensuring that businesses compete fairly and freely,” said Westague, the EU’s commissioner for antitrust practices.