The bosses of four of the biggest technology firms are due to appear before a US Congress hearing on antitrust issues on Wednesday.

The big hitters include Tim Cook (Apple), Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook) and Sundar Pichai, CEO of both Alphabet and Google.

And for the first time ever, the world’s richest man Jeff Bezos will also appear before US lawmakers.

Antitrust hearing

The appearance of Bezos is notable, as Amazon had initially appeared reluctant to making its CEO available.

Indeed in May Amazon had responded to the panel’s request to make Bezos available by saying only that it would send “the appropriate executive” to answer questions.

But that response was immediately lambasted as “unacceptable” by House Judiciary Committee chairman Jerry Nadler, and the committee threatened to subpoena Bezos if he did not appear voluntarily in person.

The House of Representatives’ judiciary committee had launched a probe into digital markets and “anti-competitive conduct” in the tech industry back in June 2019.

The judiciary committee has previously said it would “document competition problems” and wanted to assess “whether existing antitrust laws, competition policies and current enforcement levels are adequate to address these issues”.

“The open internet has delivered enormous benefits to Americans, including a surge of economic opportunity, massive investment, and new pathways for education online,” committee chair Jerrold Nadler has previously said in a statement.

“But there is growing evidence that a handful of gatekeepers have come to capture control over key arteries of online commerce, content and communications,” he added.

“As the world becomes more dependent on a digital marketplace, we must discuss how the regulatory framework is built to ensure fairness and competition,” Jim Sensenbrenner, antitrust subcommittee ranking member has previously stated.

The US has been accused in the past of giving large tech companies a relatively free hand, even as in Europe firms such as Apple, Facebook and Google have been the target of wide-ranging probes and massive fines.

Other probes

It should be noted that the US Justice Department is also investigating the four US tech giants (Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Google), while the Federal Trade Commission is probing Facebook and Amazon, and US state attorneys general are investigating Facebook and Google.

California in June was also said to be investigating Amazon in an antitrust probe that is in part looking at its use of third-party seller data.

The European Commission also has an ongoing probe into Amazon, and Apple is also facing a EU antitrust probe into its App Store and Apple Pay.

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Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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