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EU Launches “In-Depth” Investigation of Amazon’s iRobot Acquisition

Posted July 6, 2023 | Amazon | iRobot | smart home | Windows

The European Commission (EC) announced today that it has launched an “in-depth” investigation of Amazon’s acquisition of iRobot, the makers of the popular Roomba automated vacuum cleaner.

” The Commission is concerned that the transaction would allow Amazon to restrict competition in the market for robot vacuum cleaners (‘RVCs’) and to strengthen its position as [an] online marketplace provider,” the announcement explains. “The Commission’s preliminary investigation indicates that the transaction may allow Amazon to restrict competition in the market for the manufacturing and supply of RVCs and strengthen its position in the market for online marketplace services to third-party sellers (and related advertising services) and/or other data-related markets.”

Amazon announced its intention to acquire Roomba for $1.7 billion in August 2022, and it seems like a pretty obvious extension of its smart home efforts. Indeed, I don’t see how this warrants so much regulatory scrutiny.

Obviously, the EC disagrees, and it cites Amazon’s sprawling business empire as its overreaching worry. Amazon’s online store, it notes, is a “particularly important channel for selling RVCs” in the EU, and the firm may be incented to prevent iRobot’s rivals from selling their RVC solutions in its store or disadvantage them in less obvious ways. The EC is also concerned about Amazon obtaining access to iRobot users’ personal data. The acquisition, it says, could “raise barriers to entry and expansion for Amazon’s competitors to the detriment of consumers.”

The EC says its in-depth investigation will determine if it can confirm these fears. It will conclude this investigation by November 15, 2023, and it notes that the opening of an in-depth inquiry does not prejudge the outcome of the investigation.

“We continue to work through the process with the European Commission and are focused on addressing its questions and any identified concerns at this stage,” an Amazon spokesperson said in response to this news.

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