British regulators eyeing Google, Amazon, Microsoft in antitrust investigation

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Specifically in the crosshairs of the British antitrust inquiry are Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud, all of which dominate global cloud storage services. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

Sept. 22 (UPI) — Media regulators are looking into whether large U.S. tech companies including Amazon and Google have formed a monopoly over cloud computing in Britain, officials said Thursday.

Britain’s media watchdog agency Ofcom announced the investigation and said it will look into whether the two companies and Microsoft may have an unfair competitive advantage in the cloud services industry.

“Because the cloud sector is still evolving, we will look at how the market is working today and how we expect it to develop in the future — aiming to identify any potential competition concerns early to prevent them becoming embedded as the market matures,” the agency said in a statement, according to the Evening Standard.

Specifically in the crosshairs of the inquiry are Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud, all of which dominate global cloud storage services — a powerful tool that allows businesses to store data on remote servers accessible from anywhere as opposed to localized hard drives.

Depending on the findings of the investigation, the agency could take further action to rein in the corporate behemoths.

Other popular digital tools are also on the watchdog’s radar, including Meta’s WhatsApp, Apple’s Zoom and FaceTime and virtual assistants like Amazon Alexa — services that so far have seen little, if any, regulatory oversight.

Ofcom estimates that global companies spend nearly 20% of their budgets on cloud services — but Amazon, Google and Microsoft take the lion’s share (more than 80%) of the profits.

Selina Chadha, Ofcom director of connectivity, said the agency is taking an objective approach with its investigation, which could take as long as a year to gather information.

“The way we live, work, play and do business has been transformed by digital services,” Chadha said according to CNBC. “But the number of platforms, devices and networks that serve up content continues to grow, so do the technological and economic issues confronting regulators.”

The watchdog’s final report will list any antitrust concerns and make recommendations to fix them.

The British investigation is part of a broader effort by London to implement new controls in broadcasting and telecommunications and to clean up the digital economy. The Competition and Markets Authority is looking into U.S. tech companies in several separate antitrust investigations.

The European Union has previously hit Google with billions of dollars in penalties for suspected antitrust violations and Apple and Amazon are suspected of similar practices.

All three companies have faced similar antitrust scrutiny in the United States.

In mid-2020, several tech CEOs including Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Google’s Sundar Pichai testified before a House subcommittee on antitrust.

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