ACCC Flags Google’s Purchase Of Fitbit

Vancouver, BC, Canada -- August 26, 2014:Close up of a man wearing a Fitbit Flex using the App on an iPad Mini.  The Fitbit Flex is a wireless activity and sleep monitor wristband that promotes activity and wellness.
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Australia’s consumer watchdog has flagged Google’s recent acquisition of wearable technology company Fitbit.

The $3 billion acquisition was announced in November 2019 following months of speculation.

Although Google has publically said it will not use any of the personal information recorded on Fitbits for ads, the ACCC is still concerned the acquisition could bring unwanted consequences.

“Our concerns are that Google buying Fitbit will allow Google to build an even more comprehensive set of user data, further cementing its position and raising barriers to entry to potential rivals,” ACCC chair Rod Sims said.

“The ACCC’s Digital Platforms Inquiry found that Google’s substantial market power is built on its concentration of search and location data, and data collected via third-party websites and apps.”

Sims pointed to Google’s previous acquisitions – which have included YouTube, DoubleClick and Waze – as a cause for concern.

“Past acquisitions by Google, of both start-ups and mature companies like Fitbit, have further entrenched Google’s position. The access to user data available to Google has made it so valuable to advertisers that it faces only limited competition,” Sims said.

The ACCC has shared a statement of issues paper on the proposed acquisition, which will seek feedback on whether or not the deal will impact prices of wearables and the impact of Google’s increased access to data.

There are also some clouds over the deal overseas.

Earlier this week, Google formally notified the European Commission of the acquisition.

The European regulator now has until July 20 to decide whether or not the deal should go ahead.

The Commission can now either clear the deal with or without concessions, or it can open a four-month investigation if it has serious concerns, according to Reuters.

Last year the ACCC’s Digital Platforms Inquiry identified Facebook and Google’s past acquisitions as a key contributor to their success.

As a result the ACCC recommended these digital platforms provide the ACCC with advanced notice of such acquisitions.

Commenting on the Google/Fitbit acquisition, Sims said the ACCC was completing its due diligence.

“Our position is where there is uncertainty, especially surrounding such important markets, the ACCC must thoroughly investigate the potential for an acquisition to stymie future competition,” he said.

“As a competition regulator it is our job to weigh carefully the potential issues concerning data and advertising that may follow transactions such as these.

“We will work very closely with other competition authorities in other jurisdictions that are also reviewing this transaction.”

A Google spokesperson reaffirmed the company’s stance on the use of Fitbit health data to B&T.

“Throughout this process we have been clear about our commitment not to use Fitbit health and wellness data for Google ads and our responsibility to provide people with choice and control with their data. Similar to our other products, with wearables, we will be transparent about the data we collect and why. And we do not sell personal information to anyone,” the spokesperson said.

 

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