Google-Fitbit Deal Probe Extended by EU Regulators to December 23

Wearables

European Union (EU) antitrust regulators have extended their investigation into Alphabet unit Google’s fitness tracker maker Fitbit to December 23, the European Commission said on Wednesday.

The EU competition enforcer last month kicked off a full-scale probe into the deal, saying Google’s pledge not to use Fitbit’s data for advertising purposes was insufficient to address competition concerns.

“The Commission extended the deadline in agreement with the parties,” the EU executive said in an email.

Google has said the combination of its and Fitbit’s hardware would boost competition in the sector where players include Apple, Samsung, Xiaomi, Huawei and others.

“Our investigation aims to ensure that control by Google over data collected through wearable devices as a result of the transaction does not distort competition,” said European Commission Executive Vice-President Margrethe Vestager, who also is the EU’s competition commissioner.

Google announced its decision to buy Fitbit in November 2019 for $2.1 billion (roughly Rs. 15,720 crores). Privacy, social justice and consumer groups have called on authorities to block the deal, citing privacy, and antitrust concerns.

The EU said the deal could expand Google’s “data advantage” and therefore raise barriers for rivals to match Google’s online advertising services.

“This deal is about devices, not data,” said Rick Osterloh, Google’s senior vice president for devices and services. “We’ve been clear from the beginning that we will not use Fitbit health and wellness data for Google ads,” he wrote in a blog post.

The investigation adds more scrutiny of the transaction, which Australia’s competition watchdog is also examining. It underscores the lead role EU authorities have taken in global efforts to regulate the big technology companies.

© Thomson Reuters 2020


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