‘Break up big tech’s monopoly’: Smaller rivals join growing chorus ahead of Congress hearing

BOULDER, Colo (Reuters) – In April 2019, Tile.com, which helps users find lost or lost items, suddenly noticed with Apple Inc, after years of enjoying a mutually beneficial relationship with the iPhone maker.

FILE PHOTO: The Apple Inc. logo hangs at the Apple Store entrance on 5th Avenue in Manhattan, New York, USA, October 16, 2019. REUTERS / Mike Segar

Apple carried Tile in its app store and sold its products in its stores since 2015. It even presented Tile's technology at its largest annual event in 2018 and the startup sent an engineer to Apple's headquarters to develop a feature with the voice assistant of the company Siri.

At the beginning of the following year, Tile executives read news about Apple's launch of a hardware product, along with a service similar to what Tile was selling. By June, Apple stopped selling Tile & # 39; s products in stores and has since hired one of its engineers.

"After careful consideration and months of submitting our concerns to Apple through regular … channels, Tile has decided to continue to raise concerns about Apple's anti-competitive practices," Tile General Adviser Kirsten Daru told Reuters in an interview.

The startup will be one of four companies that testify at the last hearing of the House Judiciary Committee antitrust subcommittee in Colorado on Friday, urging Congress to see how these companies use their significant influence on the online market to rivals to hurt.

Similar investigations are under way at the Ministry of Justice, the Federal Trade Commission and a dual collection of advocates-general from dozens of states.

An Apple spokesperson said the company has not built a business model around knowing a customer's location or the location of their device, that users have control over such data, and that they can choose which location services they want to enable or disable.

In September, House legislators asked more than 80 companies for information about how their business may have been harmed by anti-competitive behavior from Amazon.com Inc., Apple, Facebook and Google from Alphabet. In October, Committee Chair David Cicilline said he expected a final report on his investigation by the "first part" of 2019.

Another company that testifies on Friday is Basecamp, which sells an online project management tool and has expressed concerns about Google's advertising and search practices. Google accounts for more than 40% of Basecamp's traffic.

Google allows competitors to buy ads on the Basecamp trademark and then blocks consumers from reaching their site, co-founder David Heinemeier Hansson told Reuters in an interview. The company has launched multiple trademark infringement investigations through Google's internal process, but it is "heavy and slow," he said.

"Google & # 39; s monopoly on internet search should be broken up for the sake of a fair market," said Hansson. Basecamp is now being forced to run an advertising campaign of more than $ 70,000 annually to defend its trademark on Google, he said.

Google spokesperson Jose Castaneda said that for trademarks such as company names, the company's policy balances the interests of both users and advertisers.

Google allows competitors to bid on trademark terms because that gives users more choice when searching, but if a trademark owner submits a complaint, Google blocks competitors from using their real name in the ad text, Castaneda said.

Reporting by Nandita Bose in Colorado; Editing Stephen Coates

Our standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

. (tagsToTranslate) US (t) TECH (t) ANTITRUST (t) Anti (t) competitive behavior / Price agreements (t) Computer and electronics stores (TRBC) (t) Company news (t) Software (TRBC) (t) Internet / World Wide Web (t) Department Stores (TRBC) (t) United States

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