Do big tech firms like Amazon have too much market power?


TORONTO, Aug. 18, 2020 – Canada’s Competition Bureau launched an investigation of Amazon’s impact on competition on Friday, Aug. 14 and is requesting input from businesses selling on Amazon’s online marketplace.

York University Professor Kean Birch, Department of Geography and Graduate Program in Science and Technology Studies in the Faculty of Science, is available to discuss the issue. He is leading a five-year Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council-funded project looking at the dynamics of these techno-economic transformations.

The ongoing Competition Bureau investigation follows a recent US Congressional Hearing on July 29 in which American politicians grilled the CEOs of Amazon, Apple, Google, and Facebook for more than five hours about their market strategies and practices.

“The Hearing raised numerous issues with the way that these so-called ‘Big Tech’ firms shape and dominate markets, thereby reducing competition or side-lining potential competitors,” says Birch.

There have been other hearings prior to this, not only in the U.S. but also across several countries, including the International Grand Committee on Big Data, Privacy and Democracy established in November 2018 by four Canadian and British MPs.

“It is an apt time for the Competition Bureau to launch such an investigation. Amazon has done very well since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, as people have had to turn to the internet to buy most of their daily necessities,” says Birch. Amazon reached a market capitalization of US$1 trillion at the start of 2020 – alongside Apple, Microsoft, and Google – and has since then put on another US$600 billion in market value.

See the graph for an illustration of how Big Tech has grown significantly faster than the rest of the stock market (S&P500) during the pandemic.


GOOG = Google; AMZN = Amazon; AAPL = Apple; FB = Facebook; MSFT = Microsoft; source of data, Yahoo Finance. Credit: produced by Dr. D.T. Cochrane

“It is unclear what outcome will result from this Competition Bureau investigation, but it illustrates the growing concern amongst politicians, policy-makers, journalists, academics, and publics with the growing entanglement of technology and economy, and the growing market power of Big Tech firms like Amazon,” he says.

Birch’s project, “From Entrepreneurship to Rentiership? Changing Dynamics of Innovation in Technoscientific Capitalism,” with Postdoctoral Fellow Dr. D. T. Cochrane, will examine the impacts of Big Tech on our economies and societies.

Professor Kean Birch is available to talk about:

  • Whether Big Tech firms like Amazon are monopolies, or are becoming monopolies;
  • The implications of digital monopolies on our economies and societies;
  • How Big Tech firms like Amazon collect, use, and commercially exploit our personal data;
  • The lack of regulation covering the collection, use, and exploitation of our personal data;
  • The negative implications of Big Tech strategies for innovation, especially by new start-ups; and,
  • The increasing dependence we have on Big Tech digital infrastructures (e.g. Amazon’s marketplace platform).

Recent research by Professor Kean Birch includes:


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