A retail association, whose members include Walmart, Target, and Best Buy, has thrown its support behind the U.S. government’s antitrust investigations into Big Tech’s dominance of the online marketplace. Currently, the FTC is investigating Facebook and Amazon, while the Department of Justice is handling inquiries into Apple and Google.
The Retail Industry Leaders Association, or RILA, specifically name-drops Amazon and Google in its 10-page letter, dated June 30, which addresses “competition and consumer protection in the 21st Century.” In particular, the memo urges the FTC to prioritize control of information—primarily through data collection—just as much as market power and price control.
At times, the information collection is underhanded, says RILA, such as when Amazon “pretends” to sell directly from other retail brands, even when these brands aren’t technically on the platform. An example the association points to is the Williams-Sonoma lawsuit, which claims the tech giant makes it seem as though the traditional retailer is the source of the goods.
And as Amazon does this, says RILA, it’s collecting data from site surfers about their consumer habits. “It can analyze data from its rivals to develop an entry plan against those sellers,” says RILA, quoting antitrust experts.
Furthermore, while bigger retailers can somewhat afford to operate alone, smaller outfits now have to sell on Amazon to survive. That begins a vicious cycle, whereby Amazon can collect data from users buying from these smaller sellers and launch competition from within.
With the 2020 race now underway, many politicians are reigniting conversations about the power of the tech giants. Presidential candidate Senator Elizabeth Warren has called for the break up of Big Tech as one of her signature platforms.