WASHINGTON – A group of states is preparing to move forward with a joint antitrust investigation of major technology companies, according to people familiar with the situation, adding another layer of control to an industry already under federal light.
Attorney General efforts are expected to be formally launched next month, people said. It is likely to focus on whether a handful of dominant technology platforms use their market power to restrict competition.
As part of the study, states are likely to request subpoena-like civil investigations from technology companies and other businesses, people say.
The new investigation may lead to plans by the Justice Department, which last month announced its own review of antitrust legislation that will focus on technology companies, including
The Google device and
people familiar with the plans said.
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The specific number of countries that may join the investigation cannot be known, although one person familiar with the efforts made up to 20 or more may participate.
four companies likely to be at the center of the new investigation have all declined comment. Companies generally say they work fairly and do not engage in anti-competitive behavior.
The Wall Street Journal reported in June that a number of attorneys were considering investigating major technology companies. As those efforts focused on a formal investigation, in July, representatives of about a dozen attorneys general, including Republicans and Democrats, met with senior Washington State Department officials to discuss fears of a lack of competition in the tech industry, according to people
The political composition of the multilateral group has not been determined. A two-probe can give the investigation wider impact and help isolate GOP officials from questions about whether their actions are motivated by political concerns, such as how online platforms treat conservative speech.
"Attorneys involved have concerns over the control of personal data by big tech companies and will hold them accountable for anti-competitive practices that threaten privacy and consumer data," said New York Attorney General Lettia James, a Democrat .
North Carolina Attorney General's spokesman Josh Stein, a Democrat, said he was "engaged in bilateral talks on the matter. the collection of data in the hands of a few and [I] we are always watching for some monopoly.
Attorney General of Texas
Republican, issued a statement after last month's meeting, saying he and other attorneys general were discussing "the real concerns consumers across the country have with big tech companies stifling Internet competition."
added a third part basic control of the technology sector. In addition to the Justice Department's probe, the Federal Trade Commission is investigating antitrust issues on Facebook, including the company's acquisition of emerging technology companies, as well as competing issues elsewhere in the technology industry.
Attorney General involvement can add to the complexity and cost to companies. These officials have been a driving force in the remarkable joint state-federal antitrust case against
Two decades ago, Microsoft agreed to a number of terms, including making the Windows platform more accessible to third-party software developers.
But in the end the states split whether to accept the agreement. Some experts say their involvement broadens and expands the legal battle, sometimes significantly.
The Department of Justice and the FTC reached detailed review agreements earlier this year not only on Google and Facebook, but also on Amazon.com and Apple. Some of these big four tech giants may be able to gain control from multiple antitrust agencies.
Asked for comment, a Google spokesman cited congressional testimony last month by
its economic policy director, who said the search and advertising giant "helped lower prices and expand consumer and merchant choice in the US and around the world."
At the same hearing, the director of public policy on Facebook, Matt Perot said the social media king was "facing intense competition for all the products and services we offer."
Apple and Amazon representatives reiterated these comments during the hearing, each saying that business competes with them established competitors.
Regulators, legislators and legal experts, however, worry that significant chunks of the high-tech technology market have become uncompetitive. These include advertising, demand, social media, app sales and some retail sectors.
The recent meeting between the State Attorneys and the Ministry of Justice was attended by the Attorney General
Deputy Attorney General
and Assistant Attorney General
who runs the department's antitrust department, said people familiar with the matter.
State and federal officials have committed to working together and can formally unite, people said. Common concerns include the growth of technology firms' data and the resulting difficulties that competitors will encounter as they enter their markets.
A spokesman for the Department of Justice declined comment.
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