In proposing to buy WholeFoods for $14b, Amazon has surprisingly invited unwelcome serious antitrust investigation into, and public discussion about, Amazon’s core conflicted retail/MarketPlace business model and the many alleged predatory, discriminatory, and unfair standard Amazon business practices, that Amazon commits, not only in the grocery business segment, but in all other retail segments.
In stating “the parties expect to close the transaction in the second half of 2017,” that means Amazon expects no serious antitrust investigation of whether the transaction “substantially lessens competition,” and thus no “second request” from antitrust authorities requesting more information and questions to answer.
If a “second request” comes, which is likely, there is no way the companies can continue to “expect” the deal will be approved in 2017. That’s because such an investigative process effectively does not have any deadline for the reviewing authority, DOJ or the FTC, to either: approve, approved with conditions, or challenge the deal….
The combination of: the likely multiple alleged anticompetitive behaviors; the likely number of complaints and complainants; the online-offline complexity of investigating the complaints; the importance of this case as an online-offline antitrust merger precedent; the exceptional size, scope, reach, speed and non-transparency of Amazon’s online business; and the expected high-public profile of this transaction; all would auger for the reviewing authority to err on the side of caution and investigate the transaction fully.
Let me be clear here about what I am saying and not saying.
First, what’s obvious here is that the transaction will attract a lot of concern in private and publicly in multiple dimensions. That’s precisely because of the many serious implications this “Everything Store” proposed transaction will have for the future of competition in many markets, which in turn will delay Amazon’s transaction timetable.
…[M]ost of the antitrust concern will come with the exceptional market power that Amazon wields online, combined with the under-appreciated conflict in its business model where half of its retail revenues come directly from consumer-customers, and the other half of its retail revenues come from its MarketPlace offering where Amazon is the mall and gatekeeper for around 15 of its top 20 grocery competitor-customers, that have had to capitulate to Amazon’s market power and operate on Amazon Marketplace in order to reach all their offline customers online.
In layman’s terms, the problem Amazon’s retail intermediary model causes competitors is that it simultaneously is a direct retail competitor overall, at the same time it is the dominant online broker that has disintermediated its competitors from their customers when they are in the online world, and in that broker role, they are routinely criticized as not being an “honest broker” or as being a “non-neutral platform,” that routinely self-deals anti-competitively, because Amazon has market power to extract it with impunity, and no antitrust or regulatory accountability to speak of – to prevent it.
[T]his transaction review is the first genuine opportunity and powerful legal process for those alleging anti-competitive harm by Amazon to have antitrust authorities’ full ear in a confidential process where warranted.
Marty Bandier has raised a good question–why are songwriters not accorded proper credit on digital services? Services that often don’t even have a field for songwriter credits in their incoming metadata. This is particularly interesting in the compulsory license context where these rights of attribution–or “moral rights”–are protected by the Berne Convention to a large extent and are expressly acknowledged in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Songwriters are forced to license to users who fail to accord them credit for their works….
Rightscorp has created a solution to help songwriters fight the oppressive mass filing of millions of “address unknown” NOIs through a little known procedure at the Library of Congress and Copyright Office. Rightscorp CEO Christopher Sabec fills us in.
Wealth and influence in the technology business have always been about gaining the upper hand in software or the machines that software ran on.
Now data — gathered in those immense pools of information that are at the heart of everything from artificial intelligence to online shopping recommendations — is increasingly a focus of technology competition. And academics and some policy makers, especially in Europe, are considering whether big internet companies like Google and Facebook might use their data resources as a barrier to new entrants and innovation.
In recent years, Google, Facebook, Apple, Amazon and Microsoft have all been targets of tax evasion, privacy or antitrust investigations. But in the coming years, who controls what data could be the next worldwide regulatory focus as governments strain to understand and sometimes rein in American tech giants.
The European Commission and the British House of Lords both issued reports last year on digital “platform” companies that highlighted the essential role that data collection, analysis and distribution play in creating and shaping markets. And the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development held a meeting in November to explore the subject, “Big Data: Bringing Competition Policy to the Digital Era.”
As government regulators dig into this new era of data competition, they may find that standard antitrust arguments are not so easy to make. Using more and more data to improve a service for users and more accurately target ads for merchants is a clear benefit, for example. And higher prices for consumers are not present with free internet services.
My parties all have big names
And I greet them with the widest smile
Tell them how my life is one big adventure
And always they’re amazed
When I show them ’round my house, to my bed
I had it made like a mountain range
With a snow-white pillow for my big fat head
And my heaven will be a big heaven
And I will walk through the front door
Big Time, written by Peter Gabriel
Washington’s Kalorama neighborhood just keeps getting swankier: Amazon founder and Washington Post owner Jeffrey P. Bezos [of the Internet of Other People’s Things] has bought the former Textile Museum, a 27,000 square-foot property, intending to convert it into a single-family home, according to a person with knowledge of the sale.
Bezos’s neighbors will include President Obama and his family, who are renting a property nearby for their post-White House home, as well as future first daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband, incoming presidential adviser Jared Kushner.
Read the post on…where else…the Washington Post (owned by royalty deadbeat Jeff Bezos)
The proposed merger of AT&T and Time Warner has drawn censure from both sides of the political aisle, as well as a Senate hearing that looked into the potential for the combined company to become a monopoly.
But if we are going to examine media monopolies, we should look first at Silicon Valley, not the fading phone business.
Mark Cuban, the internet entrepreneur, said at the meeting of the Senate Judiciary Antitrust Subcommittee last week that the truly dominant companies in media distribution these days were Facebook, Google, Apple and Amazon.
“Facebook is without question in a dominant position, if not the dominant position, for content delivery,” he said.
Look at the numbers. Alphabet (the parent company of Google) and Facebook are among the 10 largest companies in the world. Alphabet alone has a market capitalization of around $550 billion. AT&T and Time Warner combined would be about $300 billion.
The radio industry is about to learn what many others already have — when you push Irving Azoff, he pushes back. Usually harder.
After nearly two years of negotiations over licensing rates for radio song plays, the Radio Licensing Music Committee (RMLC) recently “ambushed” Global Music Rights (GMR) — the nascent U.S. performance rights organization launched in late 2013 by Azoff, in conjunction with MSG Entertainment and with former ASCAP executive Randy Grimmett at the helm — with an antitrust lawsuit filed in the U.S. Eastern District Court of Pennsylvania on Nov. 18.
That was followed by the filing, on Dec. 6, Daniel Petrocelli and his firm O’Melveny & Myers of an antitrust suit on behalf of GMR against the RLMC in the U.S. Central District Court of California. Petrocelli stresses that the suit is not retaliatory, but was filed to fight the RLMC’s “collusive tactics to depress [the] prices” that radio stations pay songwriters.
Azoff, the legendary artist manager who began GMR because he felt songwriters were getting shortchanged in performance licensing, tells Billboard that he takes “artist rights very seriously. I grew up around guys named Lew Wasserman[former head of MCA, now known as Universal Music Group] and Steve Ross [who created Warner Music Group], who taught me to respect talent. We feel that they [the RMLC] violated respect for talent. We didn’t start this fight, but we aren’t going away.”