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FEATURES

Amazon Faces Sharp Questions about Its Market Power before House Judiciary Committee, and ILSR's Stacy Mitchell Testifies

ILSR  |   July. 17, 2019

On Tuesday, July 16, ILSR Co-Director Stacy Mitchell testified before the United States House Judiciary Committee at a hearing about the monopoly power of dominant tech platforms.

The hearing also included a representative from Amazon, who faced sharp, well-informed, and forceful questioning from members of Congress about the company’s power in digital markets and its impact on competition and independent businesses. 

The hearing, “Online Platforms and Market Power, Part 2: Innovation and Entrepreneurship,” was the second in a series of hearings that the committee is holding as part of an in-depth investigation into the power of dominant tech corporations. 

This is the first significant antitrust investigation undertaken by Congress in decades. It represents a major turning point after years in which antitrust policy has been largely ignored as a policy and political issue. 

Stacy focused on Amazon's market power, and how it uses its monopoly in e-commerce to tilt the playing field in its own favor, inhibiting and punishing small businesses and entrepreneurs. She outlined several policy approaches that Congress should take to check the power of dominant tech platforms, including structural separation, nondiscrimination rules for online platforms, stronger enforcement against anticompetitive practices, and changes to merger policy.

You can read Stacy's full written testimony and watch a video of the hearing. (We've included a list of key moments in the hearing, so you can fast-forward to the highlights!) 

WHAT WE’VE BEEN UP TO

  • Stacy's testimony in Congress generated a lot of reporting and commentary. The Hill, Politico, CNETThe American Prospect, and Democracy Now! were among the publications who covered the hearing. Stacy also appeared on the BBC World Business Report to expand on Amazon's market power.
     
  • Our research on Walmart's grocery monopoly was cited in Nebraska's Fremont Tribune, and the paper zeroed in on Walmart's grocery monopoly in several Nebraska communities. GroceryDive added industry analysis. And Food and Power also covered the story and spoke with Stacy, as did CNN. Matt Stoller also featured the report in his newsletter.
     
  • Stacy was also quoted in the Los Angeles Times in a report on GrubHub's recent misbehavior. The company has been "squatting" on the domain names of local restaurants, then charging them for access.
     
  • ILSR Researcher Zach Freed was featured on KALW, one of the San Francisco area’s NPR affiliates, to discuss Amazon’s labor practices, its market power, and the recent strike by warehouse employees in Minneapolis. 

ON THE PODCAST

ILSR’s Zach Freed and Kevin Erickson, director of the Future of Music Coalition, talk about how corporate consolidation in the music industry is affecting musicians and what they’re doing to fight monopoly power. 
Listen to this week's episode

ICYMI

Walmart now captures 50 percent or more of grocery spending in over 200 regions. Its dominance is harming farmers, workers, and consumers. Our new report explores the policy decisions that led to Walmart’s unchecked power — and it explains how we can fix it.
Read the full report here

 

NEWS STORIES WE'RE FOLLOWING

  • In a speed-up, Amazon keeps increasing the number of items warehouse workers are expected to process each hour. Fed up, workers at a Minnesota warehouse staged a walkout strike this week. Earlier this month, John Oliver focused his show on the inhuman pace of work inside these facilities.
     
  • Amazon is rolling in advertising money brought in from third-party sellers. Shira Ovide in Bloomberg Opinion calls this what it really is: a tax on small businesses.
     
  • Part of Amazon’s pitch when it purchased Whole Foods was cheaper groceries. It’s delivered rather lackluster results. Many items have stayed the same price, and some have even gotten more expensive.
     
  • Amazon is tamping down on language that suggests its own market power, telling employees not to refer to its site as a “platform,” or use expressions like “crushing it.” It’s part of a broader strategy led by Jay Carney, the former press secretary to Obama, who now leads public relations and policy at Amazon.
     
  • The ongoing investigations of Big Tech seems to be one of the only things uniting liberals and conservatives in Washington—and it has made for some unpredictable alliances.
     
  • In another odd turn, the lobbying group that represents Walmart, Target, and other big-box retailers is cheering on the House’s antitrust investigation—as long as it stays focused on their biggest competitor.
     
  • Law professor and antitrust scholar Sanjukta Paul describes how antitrust law, “established originally to limit corporate power, has become its friend.”
     
  • One way Amazon keeps sellers in line is by inserting forced arbitration clauses into its standard seller terms, blocking their ability to challenge the tech giant in court.
     
  • Last month, Walmart quietly paid $282 million and pled guilty to international bribery and corruption charges. It turns out Walmart’s rapid expansion and domination of markets in Mexico, Brazil, and India was made possible by greasing officials.
     
  • A community development organization in Philadelphia is stepping up where big banks won’t, helping get loans to businesses started by women, people of color, and immigrants.
     
  • LAist has an interesting look back at the incredible variety of local grocery stores Angelinos once had to choose from. Today a few large chains dominate.
     
  • Nike and Adidas are cutting out Main Street shoe outlets with outrageous minimum orders.
     
  • Local news in Augusta, Ga., makes a case for buying local: sales taxes go directly to improving public services like local infrastructure.
     
  • In Jackson, Miss., people are launching small businesses, helping to revive their community, even as they contend with zoning and other challenges.

From informing policymakers to shaping media coverage, ILSR's research is
making an impact. Please help us work to create an economy that's more
competitive, equitable, and prosperous by making a donation today.

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