For all of the criticisms directed on the largest tech firms within the final couple of years, few smaller rivals have been keen to talk up publicly.
That modified for a few hours on Friday, as executives at 4 companies pleaded with federal lawmakers to rein in Google, Facebook, Apple and Amazon.
At a congressional listening to in Boulder, Colo., prime executives of Sonos, PopSockets, Basecamp and Tile testified that the largest expertise firms hindered their companies. Their tales various, however they shared a theme: The tech giants have used their highly effective positions in search, e-commerce, on-line advertisements and smartphones to squeeze out them and different rivals.
Tile, which makes small monitoring gadgets, mentioned Apple had put up hurdles for Tile’s smartphone app that didn’t apply to Apple’s competing product. Sonos, the high-end audio firm, mentioned Google had copied its patented speaker expertise and used its dominance in search to enter new markets. PopSockets, which makes smartphone grips, mentioned Amazon “bullied” it into gross sales agreements and ignored complaints about counterfeits on the retail platform.
“It’s like playing a soccer game,” mentioned Kirsten Daru, the vice chairman and normal counsel of Tile. “You might be the best team in the league, but you’re playing against a team that owns the field, the ball, the stadium and the entire league, and they can change the rules of the game in their own favor and anytime.”
The executives’ criticism offered lawmakers on the House antitrust subcommittee, which carried out the listening to, with private tales concerning the energy and affect of Silicon Valley’s greatest firms. Last yr, the House opened a broad investigation into whether or not these massive firms violated antitrust legal guidelines. At the identical time, the Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission opened separate competitors investigations into Amazon, Facebook Apple and Google. In addition, practically all 50 states are investigating whether or not Facebook and Google have interaction in anticompetitive practices.
Despite all of these investigations, few firms have come ahead to complain in public. The House antitrust subcommittee has interviewed dozens of firms that accuse the large tech firms of unlawfully stifling competitors. Most have insisted on confidentiality. This month, Sonos sued Google on allegations of antitrust violations and patent infringement, in its first pointed action against the company.
Lawmakers at Friday’s hearing, which was held in Boulder in part to draw more national attention to the House investigation, noted how rarely start-ups spoke out about their complaints, and encouraged them to keep making their case.
“Thank you for your testimony, and quite frankly your courage to be here today,” said Representative Ed Perlmutter, a Democrat from Colorado. “Because when you take on dominant players, whether it’s Amazon, Google, Apple or Facebook, you’ve got to have a little trepidation.”
Representative David Cicilline, the Rhode Island Democrat who leads the antitrust subcommittee, thanked the executives for “describing economic retaliation.”
The tech companies vehemently deny that they illegally harm competition. Google, for instance, has disputed all the claims made by Sonos and said it would fight the lawsuit.
The hearing capped a difficult week for big tech, which was the target of fierce criticism by top politicians. Much of that anger was directed at Facebook, which has refused to police lies shared by politicians on its social network.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Thursday that Facebook “just cares about money” and that the company intended “to be accomplices in misleading the American people.” Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., who has been the focus of false ads by President Trump’s re-election campaign, told the New York Times editorial board that Facebook and other internet companies that allow the spread of misinformation on their sites should lose a critical liability shield for internet platforms. He also personally criticized Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive.
“I’ve never been a big Zuckerberg fan,” Mr. Biden said. “He knows better.”
The hearing on Friday focused entirely on whether the big companies dominate markets. The executives, who argued at length that companies like Google and Amazon unfairly hurt their businesses, received little pushback from lawmakers.
David Barnett, the founder of PopSockets, said Amazon had pressured it to lower listing prices or else allow unauthorized resellers to sell the product. He also alleged that Amazon allowed a flood of counterfeits to compete with PopSockets on the site to pressure the company into spending more on marketing.
It is “bullying with a smile,” Mr. Barnett said.
David Heinemeier Hansson, the chief technology officer and a co-founder of Basecamp, a provider of online productivity tools, said Google’s domination of the search industry forced his company to go online with the advertising titan’s demands and decisions.
“The internet has been colonized by a handful of big tech companies that wield their monopoly powers without restraint,” Mr. Hansson said.
Both Republicans and Democrats appeared to sympathize with him and the other executives.
“I think it’s clear there’s abuse in the marketplace and a need for action,” said Representative Ken Buck, a Republican from Colorado.
Mr. Cicilline said he didn’t expect the executives or their companies to suffer any economic retaliation from the giants for testifying. “But if you do in any way, it would be of tremendous interest to this committee,” he said.