A US antitrust committee has completed a year-long investigation into the practices of four behemoth companies, Amazon, Facebook, Google and Apple.
In its newly published report, the committee has found all four companies to be guilty of monopolistic tendencies, and the giant firms have been described as "gatekeepers."
"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. Although these firms have delivered clear benefits to society, the dominance of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google has come at a price," reads the report.
"These firms typically run the marketplace while seven 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."
Open the gate
Each company controls a different market. More specifically, Facebook has been criticised for its hold over the social networking sector, while Google dominates the general online search and search online markets.
Meanwhile, it was noted that Amazon has control over the US online retail market, leaving Apple to have significant power within the mobile operating system sector.
"First, each platform now serves as a gatekeeper over a key channel of distribution. By controlling access to markets, these giants can pick winners and losers throughout our economy," reads the report.
"They not only wield tremendous power, but they also abuse it by charging exorbitant fees, imposing oppressive contract terms, and extracting valuable data from the people and businesses that rely on them. Second, each platform uses its gatekeeper position to maintain its market power.
Fight the power
Currently, nobody is challenging Facebook on Amazon over their respective monopolies. However, Epic Games has taken on both Apple and Google, filing lawsuits against both tech giants. The US committee cites Epic's reasoning for its action against Google.
"Google has thus installed itself as an unavoidable middleman for app developers who wish to reach Android users and vice versa. Google uses this monopoly power to impose a tax that siphons monopoly profits for itself every time an app developer transacts with a consumer for the sale of an app or in-app digital content."
The reason for the fallout between the games giant and the respective storefront owners is the new payment option that was introduced in Fortnite, effectively cutting Apple and Google out as Epic found a way to do direct business with its consumers.
As a result, the battle royale was pulled from the App Store and Google. This has led Epic to sue both firms as it looks to battle both monopolies, whilst seeking equality for all app developers. Currently, the battle between Epic and Apple is raging on. Most recently, the companies agreed not to do a trial by jury.
After conducting the report, the US Committee has suggested several changes that could be made to combat these monopolistic practices.
First of all, new nondiscrimination rules should be established. As such, it would prevent the dominant companies from pushing their services over others, therefore forcing equality. Moreover, antitrust laws need to be strengthened.
Next, it was suggested that there should be restrictions on mergers and acquisitions. Should the dominant firms wish to acquire another company, they will need to prove that it does not impede upon the antitrust rules and that it is necessary to serve the public best.
These suggestions come alongside a few others; however, they do remain as recommendations; there is no guarantee that any will come to fruition.