November 02, 2022

Warren Urges FTC and DOJ to Conduct Increased Oversight of Big Tech Companies’ Expansion in Automotive Industry

“Big Tech is setting itself up to be a one-stop shop for automakers—for everything from data collection, cloud storage, and analytics to in-car navigation to voice assistants to autonomous driving capabilities.”

“Without proactive and rigorous oversight, I fear that Google, Apple, and Amazon will bring their anticompetitive, anti-consumer, and anti-labor practices to the automotive sector.”

Text of Letter (PDF)

Washington D.C. - U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) sent letters to Federal Trade Commision (FTC) Chair Lina Khan and  Assistant Attorney General of the Antitrust Division at the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) Jonathan Kanter, calling for increased oversight of Big Tech expansion into the automotive industry. In the letter, the Senator highlights how the rapidly expanding role of Google, Apple, and Amazon in the auto industry raises competition concerns and urges the agencies to take swift action.

“To achieve this dominance, Google, Apple, and Amazon are leveraging their market power in the mobile operating system, digital app markets, and data infrastructure spheres to become the dominant players in the automotive sphere. This expansion has potentially alarming implications for developers, workers, and consumers. I ask that you use your authority to address these concerns as they emerge and prevent further overreach by Big Tech companies,” wrote Senator Warren.

Big Tech firms have already begun embedding themselves into every aspect of future vehicles. At its Worldwide Developers Conference in June, Apple introduced the sweeping next generation of its car infotainment system CarPlay,  promising to “reinvent the car experience” and claiming that CarPlay will no longer be just an infotainment system. Similarly, Google has announced several automotive partnerships, including a six-year partnership with Ford to integrate its Android Automotive Operating System into all new Ford vehicles and to provide wide-ranging data, artificial intelligence, and machine learning services. Under this partnership, Google will play a role in everything from creating “digital experiences” for Ford customers to modernizing Ford’s plant operations. Amazon is also establishing footholds for itself throughout the automotive industry, including creating autonomous driving systems, developing vehicle software, and investing in autonomous ground transportation.

In her letter, Senator Warren points out how the Big Tech companies are using “all-or-nothing” tactics to expand their anticompetitive grasp of the automobile market including through bundling and exclusionary agreements, App Store gatekeeping, and how they are laying the groundwork for potentially anticompetitive uses of Americans’ data. The Senator also urges antitrust authorities to remain vigilant for attempts by Big Tech firms to use their size to buy up companies that could pose a threat to their dominance.

Senator Warren continued, “as Chair Khan has written, ‘it is much easier to promote competition at the point when a market risks becoming less competitive than it is at the point when a market is no longer competitive.’” This market finds itself at exactly such a juncture. Big Tech could expand its anticompetitive grasp to the automotive sector to the detriment of consumers and workers, or it could abide by procompetitive restrictions that will ensure open, innovative markets that better serve consumers’ and workers’ interests. Given these concerns, it is important for the FTC, the DOJ, and legislators in Congress to act quickly and decisively to promote competition in this venue.”

As a champion for consumers, fair markets, and data privacy, Senator Warren has urged regulators to combat market concentration, monopolies, and anticompetitive practices across sectors in  the economy:

  • Last week, Senators Warren, Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Representative Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) sent a letter to FTC Chair Lina Khan urging the agency to oppose Kroger’s proposed $24.6 billion acquisition of Albertsons, which could increase the companies’ monopoly power and hurt both companies’ workers and consumers. The lawmakers also raised concerns about an unusual $4 billion dividend payout by Albertsons that is part of the deal.
  • Last month, Senator Warren, along with Representatives Mondaire Jones (D-N.Y.), Katie Porter (D-Calif.), Mark Pocan (D-Wisc.), Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), and Jesús “Chuy” García (D-Ill.), sent a letter to the FTC calling on the agency to oppose Amazon’s proposed $1.65 billion acquisition of iRobot, raising concerns about Amazon’s anticompetitive practices that put consumers and their privacy at risk.
  • In September 2022, Senator Warren sent a letter to Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, urging the Department of Transportation to use its full statutory authority to address consolidation in the airline industry and expressing serious concerns about the proposed merger between JetBlue and Spirit Airlines.
  • In June 2022, as the country faced an infant formula crisis, Senators Warren, Cory Booker (D-N.J.), and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and U.S. Representative Katie Porter sent a letter to Jonathan Kanter expressing skepticism regarding a bid from a private equity firm to acquire the Enfamil infant formula manufacturing arm of Reckitt Benckiser Group and how such a transaction, amid the nation’s ongoing infant formula shortage, could harm competition or prolong this crisis. 
  • In May 2022, Senators Warren and Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) introduced a bipartisan joint resolution that would direct the FTC to report to Congress within one year on the extent of anti-competitive practices and violations of antitrust law in the beef-packing industry, including price-fixing, anti-competitive acquisitions, dominance of supply chains, and monopolization.
  • On March 16, 2022, Senator Warren introduced the Prohibiting Anticompetitive Mergers Act to help stomp out rampant industry consolidation that allows companies to raise consumer prices and mistreat workers. The bill would ban the biggest, most anticompetitive mergers and give the DOJ and FTC the teeth to reject deals in the first instance without court orders and to break up harmful mergers. 
  • In March 2022, Senator Warren and Representative Jones, along with Senators Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) and Bernie Sanders , and Representatives Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), Katie Porter, Jan Schakowsky, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) sent a letter to Jonathan Kanter and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, expressing concerns about Frontier Airlines’s proposed acquisition of Spirit Airlines. 
  • In February 2022, Senator Warren and Representative Jones led their colleagues to slam the proposed merger between Sanderson Farms, the third-largest poultry processor, and Wayne Farms, the sixth-largest poultry processor, and called on the DOJ to thoroughly review the deal and step in to prevent harm to American farmers and consumers. 
  • In February 2022, at a hearing, Senator Warren called out corporations for abusing their market power to raise consumer prices and boost profits. 
  • In February 2022, Senator Warren requested the DOJ to take aggressive action against corporations violating antitrust laws to hike prices for consumers. 
  • In January 2022, Senator Warren questioned Federal Reserve nominee Lael Brainard about market concentration and price gouging driving inflation.
  • At a hearing in January 2022, Senator Warren pressed Fed Chair Jerome Powell on the role of corporate concentration in driving up prices for consumers during his renomination hearing to be Chair of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System.
  • In December 2021, Senator Warren and Representatives Joaquin Castro (D-Texas), David Cicilline (D-R.I.), Pramila Jayapal and 29 other Members of Congress sent a letter to the DOJ, calling on it to investigate the proposed $43 billion merger of Discovery and WarnerMedia for violations of antitrust laws.
  • In November 2021, Senator Warren requested the Department of Justice to investigate the poultry industry's anticompetitive behavior as turkey and chicken prices soared.
  • In June 2021, Senator Warren called on the FTC to engage in a “broad” and “meticulous” review of Amazon's acquisition of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios (MGM) consistent with Section 7 of the Clayton Act, expressing concerns that the acquisition has the potential to harm consumers and workers, and reduce innovation.