On January 18th, Patrick Spencer, chief executive of wireless audio maker Sonos, was reported to have been reported to the media. At a hearing on Friday local time, the antitrust panel accused big technology companies such as Alphabet Inc. and Amazon.com inc., of using market power to block competition. A week ago, Sonos filed a lawsuit against Google, alleging that it infringed its own patents.
“Today, dominant companies have such a powerful presence in a wide range of markets and continue to use that power to expand into new markets,” Spencer said at a hearing of the U.S. House of Representatives’ antitrust subcommittee. We need to rethink existing laws and policies. The hearing, which is understood to be held in Boulder, Colorado, was chaired by Representative David Cicillin, Democrat of Rhode Island, who is investigating competition in the technology sector.
Sonos is a company with 1,500 employees. It sued Google on January 7th, alleging that it had violated five patents on multi-room audio technology. Mr Spencer said Google’s market dominance allowed it to infringe on the intellectual property rights of its own companies. He said Google is also trying to stop customers from using their voice assistants while using Sonos speakers. While Amazon is not as overdone as Google, he says, it is also using its market forces to “subsidize” the booming market for smart speakers, especially by driving down prices at home prices.
Sonos worked with the committee long before deciding to file a lawsuit, according to people familiar with the matter. It also responded to questions raised by the Committee to customers of large technology platforms.
Google refuted Sonos’ claims and said it would defend itself. The search giant is facing antitrust investigations by 48 state attorneys general and the U.S. Department of Justice.
Mr. Sisilin used the hearing to express the discontent of small and medium-sized businesses. It followed a series of meetings in Washington that focused on the tech giants.
“It is clear that market-dominant platforms are beginning to use their gatekeeper power more in abusive and coercive ways,” Mr Sisilin said in his opening remarks.
The panellists also heard from David Barnett, founder of Boulder-based PopSockets. The company produces mobile phone holders and brackets. Mr Barnett claims that Amazon has often resorted to “bullying” practices, including deliberate lying counterfeit goods, threatening unauthorized dealers, and cutting prices without consulting.
Mr Barnett said PopSockets had decided to end its partnership with Amazon, despite the difficulty of selling products elsewhere. This, he says, has also led to “a $10m reduction in our innovation funding this year”.
“Amazon seems to be dominant, and there’s no choice,” said Representative Ken Buck, Republican of Colorado, who is on the committee.
In a statement, Amazon said PopSockets was a “valuable retail supplier,” adding: “We will continue to work with PopSockets to address our common concerns about counterfeit products.” We will continue to partner with PopSockets through Amazon Merch, which will enable other sellers to sell customized PopSockets products. “
Amazon said it refused to work with some middlemen to ensure the price of goods was cheap. Amazon rejected the idea that it was dominant, saying it accounted for only 4% of the U.S. retail market.
The committee also heard from Kirsten Daru, Tile’s general counsel. Tile mainly makes devices that can be paired with mobile phones, helping users quickly find small, easy-to-lose items such as keys or wallets.
Apple is reportedly preparing to launch a rival service. The company, which employs 100 people, said Apple had begun erecting barriers in its Tile business, such as removing permissions to communicate with phones and Tile devices and prompting users to disable permissions that had been set.
“You’re competing with a team that has the right to play, the ball, who can change the rules at any time,” Daru said in an interview before the hearing. He added that most of Tile’s customers use Apple’s operating system.
Apple says its location processing for Tile devices is designed to protect user privacy. Apple says it’s working with developers whose customers may want certain apps to be tracked at all times.
Apple also removed the Tile device from retail stores and raised its bid for search terms with potential competitors, raising The Tile’s advertising costs by 50 percent over the fall, Daru said.
Mr Sisilin said his goal was to present a final report to Congress this year and make targeted recommendations. He told reporters Tuesday that he wants to close the investigation by the end of March and hopes the tech giant will cooperate with the ceo’s request for information on the committee’s request, preferably at a public hearing.
“It’s hard to imagine that we’re going to conclude the investigation without listening to the chief executives of some of the big tech companies, ” he said. “