Thu, Sep 05, 2019 - Page 10 News List

Google target of new US antitrust probe

SIGNIFICANT PRESENCE:The probe is being led by the Texas attorney general, who has said that big technology firms have so much user data that they hurt competition


More than 30 US state attorneys general are readying an investigation into Alphabet Inc’s Google for potential antitrust violations, a source knowledgeable about the probe said on Tuesday.

Texas leads the group of attorneys general, which plans to announce the probe on Monday, the source said.

Google said that it was cooperating with the state officials.

“We continue to work constructively with regulators, including attorneys general, in answering questions about our business and the dynamic technology sector,” Google representative Jose Castaneda said.

The probe is focused on the intersection of privacy and antitrust, according to the source, who did not elaborate.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton in June filed comments along with 42 other state officials that urged the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to focus on privacy and data collection in investigating potential violations of antitrust law.

In the comment, the state officials argued that big tech firms have so much user data that it is hard for newcomers to compete.

Texas Assistant Attorney General Jeff Mateer alleged in an FTC hearing that Google and other big tech companies were misleading in representing themselves as neutral, citing Google’s balking at carrying an ad about “what it means to be an American,” the Texas attorney general’s office said in a statement in June.

Google eventually relented on the ad, the statement said.

The US Department of Justice in July said that it was opening a broad investigation of major digital technology firms, focusing on whether they engage in anticompetitive practices.

The investigation is believed to be aimed at Google, Inc and Facebook Inc, and potentially Apple Inc.

Separately, the FTC, which also enforces antitrust law, is also probing Amazon and Facebook to determine if they abused their massive market power in retail and social media respectively.

Meanwhile, Indonesia is preparing a bill that would make tech firms, such as Google and Amazon, pay value added tax (VAT), Indonesian Minister of Finance Sri Mulyani Indrawati said.

Such companies would be considered a “permanent establishment” liable for VAT in Indonesia regardless of whether they have a physical office in the country, Indrawati said in a statement issued by the Cabinet Secretariat late on Tuesday.

The minister said it was “because they have what is called a significant economic presence, although they don’t have a branch here,” listing Google, Amazon and Netflix Inc as examples of companies to be affected by the rules.

The VAT rate in Indonesia is 10 percent, imposed on most products and services.

Google in 2016 had a tax dispute with Jakarta over alleged tax evasion, including missing VAT payments on advertising revenues, which it resolved with an undisclosed settlement.

The Indonesian government has repeatedly said it wants to make streaming service providers, such as Netflix, pay their fair share of taxes.

Amazon does not run an e-commerce business in Indonesia, but operates cloud services.

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