Sonos CEO attends congressional hearing: Google abuses dominance to crush us

Sonos CEO Patrick Spence has accused Google and Amazon of using market power to crush rivals after the company sued the world’s largest search engine. “Today’s leading companies have such a power in such a wide range of markets and continue to use that power to open up new markets, and we need to reflect on existing laws and policies,” Spence said Friday at a congressional antitrust hearing in Boulder, Colorado. The hearing was led by Representative David Cicillin, Democrat of Rhode Island, who is investigating competition in the technology sector.

Sonos CEO attends congressional hearing: Google abuses dominance to crush us

Photo by Patrick Spence personal Twitter

Sonos, a 1,500-employee company, sued Google on January 7 for allegedly infringing five patents related to multi-room audio technology. Mr. Spence said Google’s dominance allowed it to infringe on the sound company’s intellectual property rights. He said Google was trying to stop Sonos from supporting both Google and another company’s voice assistant on the same speaker. While Amazon’s approach is less than that, he says, it is also using its power to use subsidies to conquer the booming market for smart speakers, especially by selling products at low prices.

Sonos had been cooperating with the congressional committee before deciding to file a lawsuit, a person familiar with the matter said. It also answered the Committee’s questionnaire to customers of large technology platforms.

Google disputed Sonos’ claims and said it would defend itself. The search giant faces antitrust investigations by 48 state attorneys general and the U.S. Department of Justice.

After a series of Washington meetings against tech giants, Mr. Simini used the hearing to vent his displeasure with small companies. “It is clear that the dominant platform is increasingly using its dominant position in an abusive and coercive manner,” he said in his opening statement. “

The group also heard from David Barnett, founder of PopSockets, which specializes in a variety of phone stand. He claims that Amazon is often engaged in “bullying” practices, including deliberately selling counterfeit products, threatening to turn to unauthorized dealers, and cutting prices without consulting other businesses.

Mr Barnett said that while it was more difficult to sell elsewhere, PopSockets had cut their innovation costs by $10m this year as a result of its decision to end its partnership with Amazon.

“Amazon seems to be dominant, so there’s no choice,” said Representative Ken Buck, Republican of Colorado, who is on the committee. “

Amazon said in a statement that PopSockets is a “valuable retail provider,” adding: “We continue to work with PopSockets to address our common concerns about counterfeit products and continue to connect with PopSockets through Merch by Amazon. , so that other product sellers can customize PopSockets for sale. “

The company said it refused to work with some middlemen to ensure low prices. They also deny claims that it dominates, saying it accounts for only 4% of the U.S. retail sector.

The group also heard testimony from Kirsten Daru, Tile’s general counsel, which makes devices paired with mobile phones to help people find lost items such as keys or purses.

Apple is reportedly preparing to launch a competitive service. Mr. Daru, whose company employs about 100 people, said Apple had begun erecting barriers to Tile’s business, such as hiding the phone’s permission to communicate with The Tile devices and prompting users to disable the permission.

“Our opponents are both players and referees, and we can change the rules at any time,” Daru said in an interview before the hearing. He added that most of the company’s customers use Apple’s operating system.

Apple says its approach to location permissions is designed to protect user privacy, and it also works with developers whose customers may want specific applications to always have tracking capabilities.

Apple also dropped The Tile device from retail stores and competed in search-for-keyword bids from potential competitors, leading to a 50 percent increase in weekly advertising last fall, Daru said.

Mr. Sicilian i said his goal was to eventually write a report and make recommendations to Congress this year. He told reporters Tuesday that he hopes to complete the investigation by the end of March and that the tech giants will cooperate with their investigation to allow CEOs to provide information without a court summons, preferably through public hearings.

“It’s hard to imagine us doing a survey without listening to the CEOs of big technology companies, especially those where decisions aren’t necessarily concentrated,” he said. “