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Amazon’s takeover of iRobot faces CMA review

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The UK's competition watchdog CMA is investigating Amazon's $1.7 billion (£1.36 billion) acquisition of the maker of the Roomba robotic vacuum cleaner.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has requested information to determine if the purchase would necessitate a thorough inquiry because it may "substantially lessen competition within any market or markets in the United Kingdom for goods or services."

The purchase of Massachusetts-based iRobot by Amazon, which distributes its goods internationally including in the UK, was revealed last summer.

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The £799 Roomba i7, a wifi-connected hoover cleaner that allegedly maps and learns rooms and empties itself when full, is one of its products.

The agreement is a component of the online retailer's plan to provide more home services.

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This is in addition to their currently available products such as the voice-activated Alexa virtual assistant with associated smart speakers, the Astro robot that enables remote house monitoring, and Ring doorbell security cameras.

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Antitrust groups have cautioned that Amazon’s acquisition of iRobot could give it ascendency in the “smart home market” – where digitally controlled home appliances and services give the business valuable insight into customers purchasing habits and lives

The US Federal Trade Commission is already reviewing the acquisition and the European Commission has also been reported to have already addressed specific questions to Amazon in anticipation of a potential formal investigation.

The UK-based tech watchdog group, Foxglove Legal, that has already investigated Facebook and the software company Palantir, has written to the CMA saying it had “grave concerns that the proposed merger is yet another example of Amazon’s habit of ‘snuffing out’ innovative entry and broader competition in existing and emerging markets”.

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“Amazon already spies on our doorsteps and listens in on our dinner conversations – hoovering up iRobot would put Amazon inside our living rooms,” the group said in a statement on its website.

The Roomba device, for example, lets users map out their homes room by room and store the maps in the iRobot app for future use.

Consumers can then use an app to remotely schedule regular cleaning or on demand cleaning jobs for specific rooms when necessary.

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An Amazon spokesperson said: “We are excited about the opportunity to bring together our experience and iRobot’s great products to benefit customers who have many options to choose from when they buy a vacuum. We’re working cooperatively with the relevant regulators in their review of the merger.”

The CMA said it was seeking comments from “any interested party” on the takeover. As yet there is no deadline for submissions.

SourceThe Guardian

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