Categories: LegalRegulation

Campaign Groups Urge FTC To Halt Amazon iRobot Buy

A group of 20 campaign bodies have urged US antitrust regulators to stop Amazon’s proposed $1.7 billion (£1.47bn) acquisition of iRobot, maker of the popular Roomba line of automated vacuum cleaners, arguing the deal has negative implications for competition and consumer privacy.

In an open letter the groups, including Public Citizen and Fight for the Future, said Amazon could sell Roomba devices “at or near a loss” via its Prime subscription service in order to “access more personal consumer data to buttress its anti-competitive advantages online”.

This would harm users’ privacy while giving Amazon an unfair advantage over competitors who don’t have access to that data, the groups argued.

Image credit: Amazon

‘Surveillance’

They said non-whites could be particularly affected by the privacy issues involved in the deal.

“Civil rights groups have been sounding the alarm on the dangers that Amazon’s network of smart home surveillance devices pose to Black and brown communities, specifically those stemming from the mass of data collected by these devices,” the letter stated.

Other signatories included International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Main Street Alliance, Demand Progress Education Fund, Institute for Local Self-Reliance and Open Markets Institute.

Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Regulatory scrutiny

The iRobot deal, announced in August, would add to Amazon’s existing smart home offerings including Alexa and Ring products.

The US Federal Trade Commission is reportedly reviewing the deal ahead of formally beginning an in-depth probe.

The FTC has a separate formal probe underway into Amazon’s $3.9 billion deal to buy 1Life Healthcare, which operates primary care provider One Medical.

The One Medical and iRobot deals were announced less than three weeks apart over the summer.

The regulator is also probing Amazon’s Prime subscription offering.

Matthew Broersma

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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