Reports suggest that the CMA is concerned about how Amazon could use iRobot’s robotics technology to its advantage, particularly in relation to prices and market share. The authority has given Amazon until 18 July to respond to its concerns.
One of the challenges facing the U.K. regulators as they evaluate Amazon’s purchase of iRobot is how to determine if there has been a substantial lessening of competition in the industry, given that Amazon is one company with significantly more economic power than its rivals. This question will likely receive close examination as regulators attempt to determine whether an oligopoly or monopoly may have formed in the robotics market, and what steps must be taken to address any such potential issue.
CMA investigators are still reviewing all the available evidence, and there is no set deadline for when they will make a decision about whether to proceed with an official investigation. The CMA may take as long as several months to decide what course of action to pursue, and in the meantime, it is unclear what kind of conclusions investigators will come to.
One of the oldest and most well-known manufacturers of autonomous vacuum cleaners is iRobot. Founded in 1984, the company has a long history of developing new ways to clean floors without having to get on their hands and knees. While Roombas are perhaps the best-known product from iRobot, the company also produces products like the Scooba robotic mop that can be used to clean nearly any surface.
With its plans to buy iRobot, Amazon is attempting to Capitalize on the rapidly emerging smart home market and all of the opportunities it presents. However, concerns over Big Tech’s monopoly power and their increasing involvement in our daily lives has rightfully caused regulators to take notice. This could impact not only how Amazon operates within the smart home market, but also its broader dealings with robotics in general.
Led by the FTC, regulators in Europe have reportedly raised privacy concerns about Amazon’s acquisition of iRobot, believing that Amazon might use the data collected by the two companies to unfairly compete. In contrast, in America, where regulators approved Amazon’s $3.9 billion One Medical acquisition without any concerns over privacy, insiders appear to believe that a different set of rules may apply. Whether this discrepancy is driven by regional differences or simply reveals differing attitudes towards mergers and acquisitions among regulators remains to be seen.
One possible antitrust concern for the UK is its cloud infrastructure market, which is currently being investigated by regulator Ofcom. Amazon’s AWS and Microsoft’s Azure are specifically in-focus, as is Broadcom’s planned $61 billion VMware acquisition. And last year, the CMA ordered Facebook parent Meta to sell-off Giphy, which it had bought the previous year for $400 million.
It’s still unclear exactly how the U.K. would go about launching an inquiry into Amazon’s iRobot deal, but with regulators in both the EU and United States eyeing up a potential in-depth investigation, it wouldn’t be overly surprising if the U.K. decided to take action. This could potentially add more than just regulatory uncertainty to an already difficult situation for iRobot, as it could impact both its share price and its ability to attract new investors heading into 2019.
It’s currently unknown what Amazon plans to do with the Twitch streaming service, but it seems likely that they will continue to offer it as a standalone product. With viewership figures continuing to grow and console gaming becoming more popular, Twitch is an essential part of the video game industry today.