The Federal Trade Commission wants tech giants, including Apple, to give more information about previous mergers and acquisitions considered too small to report to antitrust regulators.
The move comes as Justice Department, FTC, state attorneys general and the House Judiciary Committee ramp up investigations into big tech. Politicians have accused tech giants of using their size and power to illegally defend market share or move into new areas.
“If during the study we see that there are transactions that are problematic … we could go back and initiate enforcement action to deal with those transactions,” said FTC Chairman Joseph Simons.
The FTC says it will look at “hundreds” of acquisitions made by the companies in question and complete its study “quickly.” Alongside Apple, the FTC is delving into the business practices of Google, Amazon, Facebook and Microsoft. The commission asked for information on deals that took place between January 1, 2010, and December 31, 2019.
These deals would be the smaller ones that don’t typically fall under antitrust scrutiny. In the case of Apple, most of its acquisitions tend to be smaller companies. With the exception of its $3 billion Beats purchase in 2014, most of Apple’s acquisitions have been valued at under $500 million during the past decade. These companies typically make technologies related to augmented reality, camera sensors or artificial intelligence. Apple then usually folds them into one or more of its core products.
FTC worries about anticompetitive behavior
Last summer, it was revealed that the Justice Department was launching a broad antitrust investigation into major U.S. tech companies. Apple currently reigns as the most valuable publicly traded tech company in the world. However, Cupertino does not dominate any one market. Android beats iOS in terms of market share. Windows beats macOS in terms of desktop deployment. Spotify beats Apple Music in terms of streaming music and so on.
Much of the concern over Apple focuses on the App Store. Specifically, politicians and companies voice concern that Apple is both a publisher and the maker of its own apps. For that reason, the Justice Department is currently reaching out to app-makers. It wants to know if they have been affected by Apple’s allegedly anticompetitive App Store practices. Once company that testified against Apple is Tile, a startup that makes location-aware tracking tags. Spotify also spoke out against Apple’s business practices.
Senator and presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren previously accused Apple of using the App Store to hinder competition.