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FTC task force will investigate tech industry competition

This includes reviewing mergers that have already happened.

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AP Photo/Alex Brandon

The FTC is about to step up its scrutiny of tech companies. The Commission has created a task force devoted to investigating competition in the tech industry. It will "coordinate and consult with" FTC staff on related subjects, including both potential mergers as well as "consummated" (existing) mergers -- yes, it could reexamine deals that have already closed.

The team is modeled after a merger litigation task force created by FTC Chairman Joe Simons when he was the Bureau of Competition Director in 2002. You can expect "approximately" 17 attorneys with expertise in a range of areas, including mobile operating systems, online ads and social networking. There will also be a Technology Fellow who'll provide assistance and know-how to back investigations.

Simons characterized this as necessary when the role of tech "grows more important every day." It's important that people "benefit from free and fair competition," he said.

The timing isn't all that coincidental. It's coming as the FTC is in the midst of exploring a flurry of industry practices, including Facebook's data handling policies, Qualcomm's alleged antitrust abuses and even loot boxes in games. This theoretically gives the Commission more opportunity to pursue these cases and, hopefully, a better understanding of the issues at hand.

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