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Convenience vs. Competition: What do You Think?

The Department of Justice is beginning an investigation of “big data” companies and their hold on your online activity. This is not intended to be a political rant, but we’d like to know your thoughts on convenience vs. competition.

Here’s the executive summary of the DOJ’s investigation:

  • DOJ is reviewing whether and how market-leading online platforms – Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google and the rest of the usual suspects – have achieved market power and are engaging in practices that have reduced competition, stifled innovation, or otherwise harmed consumers.
  • The review will consider the widespread concerns about competition that consumers, businesses, and entrepreneurs have expressed about search, social media, and some retail services online.
  • The goal of the review is to assess the competitive conditions in the online marketplace in an objective and fair-minded manner and to ensure Americans have access to free markets in which companies compete on their merits to provide services that users want. 
  • If violations of law are identified, the DOJ will proceed appropriately to seek redress.

The investigation – or review – caught our attention because Amazon’s recent Prime Day blew projected numbers out of the water. Why not? When you want to buy a product, what do you usually do? You use Google to find the best price or fastest delivery, and you generally go to an Amazon website – where Amazon has your address and credit card info on file. Yes, it’s basically one click or just a few, and your shiny new object is on its way – sometimes with same-day delivery.

I admit, that’s how we sometimes shop for products and make our purchase decisions. I don’t know if the size of Google and Amazon limits my choices – or if they limit them significantly. I might never know if a local merchant has a better product, price or customer service because smaller businesses don’t have the numbers to show up in a Google search where I can easily see it. I don’t know if another search engine (not Bing, which is Microsoft) would give me better results because Google is ingrained in my mind. It’s even become a verb.

We recognize that technology and laws are complex fields, and we’ll all have different opinions about what makes a good law. But we’d like your thoughts on competition and convenience. If you would answer a few questions either by return email or by leaving comments for everyone to see, we can share what’s important to us:

  • Do you automatically use Google for product searches?
  • Would you use another search engine if it were readily available and gave the results you needed?
  • Do you go to websites only at the top of a Google search?
  • Do you click on the ads at the top of the search results?
  • Do you go to a product provider’s website directly before or after seeing Amazon results?
  • Do you really care that Google and Amazon are so big that they might be stifling competition and limiting your choices?

Thanks in advance for sharing your thoughts.

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