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DOJ Could Investigate AT&T & Apple for Antitrust
Monday, July 6th, 2009 at 5:06 PM - by Bryan Chaffin
The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) could investigate the telecom industry, including AT&T and Apple for the two companies' iPhone exclusive deal, for antitrust violations. The Wall Street Journal reported Monday that the DOJ is concerned that the largest telecom carriers have abused the market power they have accumulated, and that such exclusive deals between the largest carriers and handset manufacturers could hurt smaller competitors.
The Journal cited unnamed source "familiar with the matter," and said that the investigation is currently in a preliminary stage, and that no specific companies are yet being individually targeted.
The newspaper also reported that the investigation could review whether telecom carriers are unduly restricting the types of services other companies can offer on their networks. We noted that Fortune's Apple 2.0 blog cited Apple's App Store as an example of such a service, but the App Store is provided by Apple, not AT&T, is accessible through computers, and is platform-dependent, not carrier.
The last major Sherman Antitrust Act case to come out of the DoJ was the case against Microsoft, launched under the Clinton administration. That case was eventually handed off to the Bush Administration's DoJ, which largely punted on the case during an appealed remedy phase.
There have been no major antitrust cases since, but Christine Varney, the current antitrust chief in the Obama DoJ, has stated publicly that she wants to reassert the government's role in policing antitrust activity in the market place. Any investigation of the telecom industry could be a test of this renewed resolve from within the DoJ.
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