June 12, 2019 / 9:32 PM / 4 days ago

Republican senator criticizes potential dual U.S. antitrust tech probes

WASHINGTON, June 12 (Reuters) - The Republican chairman of the Senate's antitrust panel criticized plans by the Justice Department and Federal Trade Commission to potentially investigate four of the biggest U.S. tech firms.

News broke earlier this month that the Justice Department would look at Alphabet's Google and Apple Inc while the FTC would probe Amazon.com Inc and Facebook Inc to determine if they abused their massive market power, setting up what could be unprecedented, wide-ranging probes of some of the world's largest companies.

In a statement announcing a hearing on antitrust enforcement set for next month, Senator Mike Lee, a Republican and chair of the Judiciary Committee's antitrust subcommittee, warned that the decision to divide the work would cause a wealth of problems.

"Given the similarity in competition issues involved, divvying up these investigations is sure to waste resources, split valuable expertise across the agencies, and likely result in divergent antitrust enforcement," he said in a statement.

The major technology companies face a backlash in the United States and across the world, fueled by concerns among competitors, lawmakers and consumer groups that they have too much power and harm users and business rivals.

Senator Amy Klobuchar, who is running for president and is the top Democrat on the panel, said she is pleased with the potential probes.

"It's critical that we and the American people have a good sense of what the agencies are actually doing to protect competition in this important part of our economy," she said.

Separately, the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee opened its own investigation of competition in digital markets, with both Republicans and Democrats expressing concern about the power exercised by tech giants. (Reporting by Diane Bartz; Editing by Dan Grebler)

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