(Reuters) - Joseph Simons, the new chairman of the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC), said on Wednesday that the agency would keep a close eye on big tech companies that dominate the internet.
Simons said the power of the big tech platforms - none of which he cited by name - raised new questions about competition and privacy. “It makes it very appropriate for it to be the subject of hearings and for us to get input on that,” he said at a question session with reporters.
Controversies surrounding Facebook (FB.O) and Alphabet Inc (GOOGL.O), Google’s parent company, have led to calls for the FTC to look more closely at whether these companies use their market power to hurt potential rivals.
“They produce terrific products and one of the reasons that at least some of them are so big is that they do it well and are meeting consumer demand. We don’t want to attack people because they’re big and successful.”
“In the antitrust world, the places where there is most likely to be anticompetitive activity that is meaningful is in areas where there is market power.”
Pressed on whether he thought that merger enforcement had previously been too lax, Simons said: “I have an open mind.”
He also said he would ask the FTC to study approved mergers to determine if they resulted in higher prices.
The FTC plans to hold public hearings to look into whether it needs to change its role given evolving business practices and technology advances.
Simons was sworn in May 1 as head of the FTC, which reviews mergers, investigates deceptive practices and recently took oversight of the internet.
The public meetings, starting in September 2018, will include outside experts and the public, and will discuss privacy, big data, competition, market control, and how new technology affects consumers.
Reporting by Kara Carlson and Diane Bartz