Regulators are taking on Big Tech

US regulators have launched a concerted attack on the Silicon Valley tech giants. Could their glory days soon be over? Matthew Partridge reports.


America's antitrust police are on the warpath

Investors have "pummelled" technology stocks, says The New York Times. Facebook shares fell by more than 7% last Monday, while Google and Amazon shares were also sharply lower. US regulators are reportedly "divvying up antitrust oversight of the Silicon Valley giants", with the Justice Department agreeing "to handle potential antitrust investigations related to Apple and Google, while the Federal Trade Commission will take on Facebook and Amazon". At the same time, lawmakers are investigating "whether they have stifled competition and hurt consumers", and are even considering updating antitrust laws "to keep up with an industry that didn't exist when antitrust laws were written".

It's "hard to deny" that the big tech companies enjoy a huge degree of market power, say Robert Cyran and Gina Chon on Breakingviews. For example, Amazon "controls about half of the US e-commerce market" while Alphabet dominates internet advertising thanks to a 95% share of mobile search. An antitrust investigation is a "no brainer". Still, the agencies will "struggle to prove that consumers are being harmed by their huge scale" especially since Internet users are "lavished with free services" by Google, while Amazon provides "countless products at generally low prices". After all, a previous investigation into Google "ended with a whimper" in 2013.

Regulators "would do well to remember that past crackdowns on tech behemoths have come only after good old competition did their job for them" says Dan Gallagher in The Wall Street Journal. For example, Google, and its parent company Alphabet, "is showing on its own that it is far from invincible". For instance, its search dominance has failed to translate into other markets, such as smartphones, where Google Pixel has a mere 1% share.

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Is the tech sector's time up?

Dr Matthew Partridge

Matthew graduated from the University of Durham in 2004; he then gained an MSc, followed by a PhD at the London School of Economics.

He has previously written for a wide range of publications, including the Guardian and the Economist, and also helped to run a newsletter on terrorism. He has spent time at Lehman Brothers, Citigroup and the consultancy Lombard Street Research.

Matthew is the author of Superinvestors: Lessons from the greatest investors in history, published by Harriman House, which has been translated into several languages. His second book, Investing Explained: The Accessible Guide to Building an Investment Portfolio, is published by Kogan Page.

As senior writer, he writes the shares and politics & economics pages, as well as weekly Blowing It and Great Frauds in History columns He also writes a fortnightly reviews page and trading tips, as well as regular cover stories and multi-page investment focus features.

Follow Matthew on Twitter: @DrMatthewPartri