CEOs from major U.S. tech companies, including Amazon.com, Inc. AMZN, Apple Inc. AAPL, Facebook, Inc. FB and Alphabet, Inc. GOOG GOOGL testified in Washington, D.C. -- albeit from remote locations -- in front of the House Antitrust Subcommittee.
Each executive plead their case to Congress for these companies are not operating as monopolies.
Data Usage: Google CEO Sundar Pichai was asked about Google using data gathered from other websites to formulate its own strategies.
“Just like other businesses, we try to understand trends from data which we can see and we use it to improve our product for our users,” Pichai said.
Pichai also defended Google’s relationship with China, telling Congress the company doesn’t offer any of its services in China and is “proud to support the U.S. government.” Pichai said claims Google is working with the Chinese military are “absolutely false.”
Apple CEO Tim Cook defended Apple’s treatment of app developers that sell their apps through the App Store. Georgia Rep. Hank Johnson asked Cook whether or not all app developers would have the opportunity for their users to bypass the 30% sales cut Apple takes after a recent agreement allowed Amazon Prime users to do just that.
“It’s available to developers meeting the conditions, yes,” Cook said.
Buying Up The Competition: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was grilled about Facebook’s $1 billion 2012 buyout of Instagram.
“At the time, almost no one thought of them as a general social network or competing with us in that space,” Zuckerberg said. “The acquisition has been wildly successful.”
Zuckerberg said at the time of the buyout, Instagram wasn’t even guaranteed to succeed. Zuckerberg was also criticized for Facebook’s $19 billion buyout of competitor WhatsApp in 2014.
“With hindsight, it probably looks obvious that Instagram would reach the scale that it has today, but at the time, it was far from obvious,” he told Congress.
Maintaining Competetive Landscape: Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos was asked about a recent Wall Street Journal report that Amazon employees used non-aggregated data from third-party sellers on its platform to determine its own private label strategy. Bezos said Amazon is investigating the claims and has policies in place to safeguard seller data.
“If we found someone violated it, we would take action,” Bezos said.
Rep. Lucy McBath played Bezos an audio recording of a woman claiming her storefront was removed from Amazon without explanation even though she had followed all of Amazon’s rules.
“It’s not the systematic approach that we take, I can assure you. I’m not even sure what’s going on in that anecdote,” Bezos said.
Benzinga's Take: Investors didn't hear any groundbreaking news on Wednesday from the antitrust testimony. Investors will now watch closely to see if the testimony actually results in any regulatory actions or even potential breakups.
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