American tech heavyweights are facing yet more scrutiny of their payment practices. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has ordered Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, PayPal and Square to hand over info concerning their payment system plans. The bureau wants to learn how these companies harvest data and control access to spot any anti-consumer behavior and provide “adequate” protections to the public.
The CFPB will also study Chinese tech firms’ payment systems, including Alipay and WeChat Pay.
Director Rohit Chopra justified the order by warning that payments can pose a threat to the fair market thanks to their “tremendous scale and market power.” He pointed to China as an example, noting that systems like Alipay and WeChat Pay are so thoroughly integrated with Chinese society that residents are effectively forced to use them as-is.
The bureau said it was following up on Federal Trade Commission oversight of Big Tech. The regulator has studied some of the companies’ behavior in detail and, in the faces of Facebook and Google, put them under close watch. In 2020, for instance, the FTC investigated Facebook and Google acquisitions that hadn’t been reported.
There’s no certainty the CFPB orders will lead to regulatory action. However, they come right as politicians are trying to rein in Apple, Google and others for allegedly abusing app store payments. The Biden administration as a whole is also determined to crack down on tech companies. There’s a chance CFPB will take corrective measures, even as those companies lower fees and otherwise try to make peace offerings.
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