E-commerce has caused a lot of dilemmas in the legal sphere; the laws currently set down weren’t made with the knowledge that the internet would make the rise that it did (and they certainly hadn’t heard of bandwidth); some antitrust laws were made in the 1800’s in response to companies’ monopolies over products like railroads, oil, steel and sugar.
These federal and state antitrust laws allow the government and competitors to use to stop anticompetitive behavior. For example, they were sued to break up AT&T in 1982 when it was a landline business. For the most part, antitrust laws are applied to brick-and-mortar businesses like the proposed merger of Staples and Office Depot.
Microsoft has also been investigated for violations of antitrust laws. Back in 2000, there was a huge suit regarding whether Microsoft violated specific ordinances due to certain marketing activities it was partaking in.
According to the governments that initiated the trial, Internet Explorer was alleged to control the browser market because it was packaged as part of the Windows operating system. That packaging made entry and maintaining market share complicated for any potential browser competitors, even though any Windows user could download a competing browser onto their computer if they so wished.
The court ended up ruling that Microsoft had unlawfully tied its web browser to the Windows operating system, but eventually the US Department of Justice settled during an follow-up appeal filed by Microsoft. This settlement allowed for Microsoft to continue incorporating its browser into the Windows operating system.
Another aspect of the case involved APIs or application programming interfaces that Microsoft had limited in such a way that some competitors were not able to provide software that would be compatible with Microsoft’s operating system. That was found in violation of antitrust laws by the judge, who restricted certain market activities and required that Microsoft make its APIs available to the public for free so that any company could write software that would be compatible with Windows.
The government had advocated for breaking Microsoft up into five businesses, which wasn’t ultimately decreed by the court, but a lot of internet antitrust law precedent was set by the case and Microsoft was ordered to report to the U.S. government regularly before releasing products for years after the trial.
The EU has also taken issue with Microsoft and its alleged violation of antitrust laws, particularly “forcing” people to use Internet Explorer. In the EU’s court, Microsoft agreed to create an upgrading option that offered random competitor’s browsers as well.
Now there’s a debate regarding whether Google holds a monopoly over the Cloud. Google controls around 90 percent of the search engine business in the EU and almost 70 percent in the US; if that’s not anticompetitive, what is? Many competitors have claimed that Google’s monopoly is unconstitutional and that it must be using anticompetitive methods to maintain that kind of market share.
However, Google’s free search services are free, so that muddies the water significantly. That said, because Google is said to manipulate search results for pay, its market share may not be natural. No one can know for sure without knowing the Google algorithm, which is basically the special sauce of the Google industry and not readily available to the most loyal and devoted employees.