Jul 22, 2019
Calls to break up Big Tech are 'bluster': Former competition commissioner
There will be costs if we regulate Big Tech: former competition commissioner
A former Canadian competition commissioner says the issue with breaking up big tech firms is figuring out what – if anything – regulators can do to accomplish it.
“I think there’s a lot of conversation going, but I would really question whether – amongst all the bluster – we’re going to see much actual movement outside the margins before the election in the United States, at least,” Melanie Aitken, currently co-head of competition, antitrust and foreign investment at law firm Bennett Jones, told BNN Bloomberg on Monday.
U.S. Congress members grilled executives of some of the world’s largest tech companies, including Amazon.com Inc., Alphabet Inc. and Facebook Inc., last week over antitrust concerns that the companies’ size and access to information are hurting competition.
The greater issue, Aitken said, is that the companies are conducting “perfectly rational economic behaviour,” albeit with unprecedented access to data.
“You’ve got a lot of near-monopoly, if not [full] monopoly of power in some of these platforms. And you have the total expected consequences of that – perfectly rational economic behaviour.”
“But, you see the players exploiting their asymmetrical information to the detriment of those using their sites. You see them setting the terms of play, the price, the cost, the access. And, you see them using their own leverage to – for example, on Amazon – prefer their own products.”
The end result of the hearings, according to Aitken, was that the push to break up Big Tech is currently driven by political motivations.
“I think the hearing last week was pretty typical. There seems to be a – if not universal, then a broad – consensus that there’s some sort of problem, and that something needs to be done about it,” she said.
“So, we’re seeing a lot of fuzzy thinking around the issue and yet a lot of grasping around for some great lines for your election campaign.”