Four major tech chiefs are about to be grilled by Congress

Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google's CEOs will testify together for the first time

Photo: Getty Amazon’s head Jeff Bezos

The chief executives of four of the world's largest technology companies are set to testify Wednesday to the United States House Judiciary Committee on a variety of antitrust business practices that each company has been accused of.

In what has been touted as one of the most notable Congressional hearings in Silicon Valley’s history, the 15-member House Judiciary Committee will be questioning Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Apple’s Tim Cook, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Google’s Sundar Pichai via video conferencing. Bezos has never testified to Congress before and this marks the first time the four companies' heads will appear together to take questions from lawmakers.

The four companies are among the most valued in the world, with Apple alone having a market capitalisation of about 1.6trn dollars.

The purpose of such a hearing is to determine the adequacy of existing competition laws and whether to rein in such large companies’ ability to create monopolies. This has been an ongoing debate in the US and across the world where tech giants bat aggressively for self-regulation.

Recently, the tech companies are increasingly coming under the spotlight in Washington, over accusations of abuse of their market-dominant positions. Amazon, for example, is accused of hurting smaller retailers by being both a marketplace and a retailer itself, while Apple's App Store allegedly gives itself an advantage, forcing companies to use its payment system to net profits. Google, in the meantime, faces longstanding questions around how it promotes its own products over those of its rivals in search results.

Additionally, Facebook is often targeted by politicians, though many of the accusations are not connected to anti-trust issues.

“Given the central role these corporations play in the lives of the American people, it is critical that their CEOs are forthcoming. As we have said from the start, their testimony is essential for us to complete this investigation,” a joint statement by Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler and Antitrust Subcommittee Chairman David Cicilline said.

Congress can write antitrust laws and there have been some calls for tougher regulations or even breaking up some of the companies. The Judiciary Committee would play a key role in shaping any legislation.

Google, Apple and Amazon all release earnings reports on Thursday, while Facebook will do so after the closing bell on Wednesday.

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