U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren Seeks Regulatory Scrutiny of Walmart/Vizio Acquisition

U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) is advocating that federal regulators scrutinize Walmart’s $2.3 billion acquisition of Irvine, Calif.-based consumer electronics manufacturer Vizio.

In a Feb. 23 social media post, Warren, a longtime consumer advocate, suggests Walmart’s purchase of Vizio could stifle competition, which she believes ultimately hurts consumers.

@Walmart‘s deal with @VIZIO is a warning bell,” Warren wrote on her X (formerly Twitter) post. “Giant corporations are copying @Amazon’s playbook: buy or kill competitors in commerce, entertainment, and advertising. Regulators should scrutinize whether this merger will extend Walmart’s dominance and threaten competition.”

Three years ago, Warren led an unsuccessful attempt to break up Amazon, claiming the ecommerce behemoth unfairly quashed competitors, resulting in a market stranglehold.

“You can either be the umpire or a player on the field. But you can’t be both. That’s what Amazon does,” Warren said in a 2021 media interview. “What’s the solution here? Break Amazon up.”

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The Walmart/Vizio transaction is subject to the usual government regulatory approval required for any major publicly-traded business merger.

Presidential Candidate Warren Seeks to Regulate Big Tech, Gets Indirect Support from Sky Boss

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who is running for president in the 2020 election, wants to break up the mega tech companies such as Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple — citing antitrust issues.

Specifically, Warren would classify the tech companies with annual global revenue above $25 billion as “platform utilities,” thereby forcing them to split up business units within their corporate structures.

The lawmaker would also look to unwind what she called “anti-competitive” mergers such as Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods and Zappos; Facebook’s acquisition of WhatsApp and Instagram, and Google purchase of Waze, Nest and DoubleClick.

Indeed, Warren claims nearly 50% of all e-commerce is generated by Amazon, while 70% of Web traffic migrates through sites owned and operated by Google and Facebook.

The senator, in a March 8 post, argued that the federal government’s lawsuit in the 1990s against Microsoft regarding its (then) dominance in Web browsing paved the way for the emergence of companies such as Google and Facebook.

“Aren’t we all glad that now we have the option of using Google instead of being stuck with Bing?” Warren wrote. “The story demonstrates why promoting competition is so important: it allows new, groundbreaking companies to grow and thrive — which pushes everyone in the marketplace to offer better products and services.”

Notably, at an investor confab in London, Jeremy Darroch, group CEO at Comcast-owned European satellite TV operator Sky, questioned the U.K. government’s lack of oversight on big tech.

Jeremy Darroch

“My first instinct in these situations is always to look for self-regulation,” Darroch told the Deloitte Enders Media and Telecoms Conference 2019. “But there are times when that approach won’t work. And I am pleased that the government, and indeed politicians of all persuasion have come together to recognize this is one of those times.”

Darroch contends that as big tech’s reach permeates into all aspects of society, their approach to rules and practices will be self-serving and not necessarily to the betterment of the individual.

He said traditional broadcasters and pay-TV operators must adhere to regulation on content, while video delivered through YouTube and Facebook is given a free pass.

“This is in part because we are in an entirely different world to the one tech platforms were born into,” Darroch said. “Where policy makers once saw their role as fanning the flames of growth for these businesses, they now recognize that they need to apply the same framework to this sector as they do every other.”