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  1. BOULDER, Colo (Reuters) - In April 2019, Tile.com, which helps users find lost or misplaced items, suddenly found itself competing with Apple Inc, after years of enjoying a mutually beneficial relationship with the iPhone maker. Apple carried Tile on its app store and sold its products at its stores since 2015. It even showcased Tile’s technology at its biggest annual event in 2018 and the startup sent an engineer to Apple’s headquarters to develop a feature with the company’s voice assistant Siri. Early the following year, Tile’s executives read news reports of Apple launching a hardware product along with a service that resembled what Tile sold. By June, Apple had stopped selling Tile’s products in stores and has since hired away one of its engineers. “After thoughtful consideration and months of bringing our concerns to Apple through regular ... channels, Tile has made the decision to continue raising concerns over Apple’s anti-competitive practices,” Tile general counsel Kirsten Daru told Reuters in an interview. The startup will be one of four companies testifying at the latest hearing of the House Judiciary Committee’s antitrust subcommittee in Colorado on Friday, urging Congress to look at how these companies use their considerable clout in the online market to hurt rivals. Similar investigations are underway at the Justice Department, the Federal Trade Commission and a bipartisan collection of attorneys general from dozens of states. An Apple spokesman said the company has not built a business model around knowing a customer’s location or the location of their device, that users have control of such data and they can choose which location services they want enabled or disabled. In September, House lawmakers asked more than 80 companies for information about how their businesses may have been harmed by any anti-competitive behavior from Amazon.com Inc, Apple, Facebook and Alphabet’s Google. In October, Committee Chairman David Cicilline said he expects to have a final report on its probe by the “first part” of 2019. Another company testifying on Friday is Basecamp, which sells an online project management tool, and has raised concerns about Google’s advertising and search practices. Google makes up more than 40% of Basecamp’s traffic. Google allows competitors to purchase ads on Basecamp’s trademark, and then blocks consumers from reaching its site, Co-Founder David Heinemeier Hansson told Reuters in an interview. The company has started multiple trademark infringement investigations through Google’s internal process, but it is “onerous and slow,” he said. “Google’s monopoly on internet search must be broken up for the sake of a fair marketplace,” Hansson said. Basecamp is now forced to run a more than $70,000 annual advertising campaign to defend its trademark on Google, he said. Google spokesman Jose Castaneda said for trademarked terms like names of a business, the company’s policy balances the interest of both users and advertisers. Google allows competitors to bid on trademarked terms because that offers users more choice when they are searching, but if a trademark owner files a complaint, Google blocks competitors from using their actual name in the text of the advertisement, Castaneda said. Source
  2. Congress calls on Bezos to come explain Amazon’s possible lies And if he doesn't come voluntarily, he'll be voluntold with a subpoena. Enlarge / Amazon Founder and CEO Jeff Bezos and his surprised face speaking in 2019. Eric Baradat | AFP | Getty Images 82 with 55 posters participating, including story author A bipartisan group of House representatives wants Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos to show up and explain to their socially distanced faces why media reports say his company is doing something Amazon previously promised Congress it would never do. The House Antitrust subcommittee opened its investigation into "abusive conduct" in the tech sector—focusing on Alphabet (Google), Amazon, Apple, and Facebook—last June, almost a year ago. So far the committee has held several public hearings and has gone through untold reams of documentation it requested from all four firms about several of their business practices. Among the practices under examination is Amazon's treatment of third-party vendors on its massive marketplace platform and its use of data generated by those merchants to compete against them directly with first-party private label sales. Company representatives explicitly told Congress several times in the past year that Amazon does not access vendors' data in that way or for those purposes. Except it turns out that it totally does. Media reports, most recently a story published last week by The Wall Street Journal, have found many employees saying they used and were encouraged to use that data, despite company policy saying not to. Congress does not like feeling that it has been lied to, and the letter to Bezos (PDF) makes that displeasure clear. "If the reporting in the Wall Street Journal article is accurate, then statements Amazon made to the Committee about the company's business practices appear to be misleading, and possibly criminally false or perjurious," they write. "In light of our ongoing investigation, recent public reporting, and Amazon's prior testimony before the Committee, we expect you, as Chief Executive Officer of Amazon, to testify before the Committee," the letter continues. "It is vital to the committee, as part of its critical work investigating and understanding competition issues in the digital market, that Amazon respond to these and other critical questions concerning competition issues in digital markets." The invitation to come talk to Congress is also not really a request. "Although we expect that you will testify on a voluntary basis," the letter ends, the committee will "resort to compulsory process"—such as a subpoena—if necessary. "Amazon has had multiple chances to come clean about its business practices," Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), chairman of the antitrust subcommittee, said in a series of tweets. "Instead, its executives have repeatedly misled the Committee and the public. Enough." "In light of the gravity of this situation, I am also considering whether a perjury referral is warranted," he added. "Powerful companies are not above the law." In addition to Cicilline, the letter was signed by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), Antitrust Subcommittee Vice Chair Rep. Joe Neguse (D-Colo.), ranking member Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), and Reps. Ken Buck (R-Colo.), Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), and Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.). Earlier this week, Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) urged the Justice Department to launch a criminal antitrust probe into Amazon over its alleged use of third-party merchant data. The European Commission's competition bureau is also investigating the matter in depth. Source: Congress calls on Bezos to come explain Amazon’s possible lies (Ars Technica)
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