Submission to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission on the proposed Google/Fitbit merger
On 25 March 2020, PI made a submission to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission in relation to the proposed merger between Google, a powerful tech company, and Fitbit, a fitness tracker device manufacturer. We believe that the merger will seriously undermine our rights and we ask the regulators to block it!
- In November 2019, it was announced that Google wanted to acquire Fitbit, a company that produces fitness tracking wearables. In February 2020, the Australian competition authority began an investigation.
- PI made a submission arguing that the proposed merger can have detrimental effects on our rights
- For example, it could potentially result in exploitative and/or abusive practices. Also, competitors and other businesses may face major restrictions to enter or be excluded from entry into the general search, the mobile device operating system and the online advertising markets.
- We asked the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to stop the merger.
In February 2020, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) commenced an investigation into the proposed acquisition of Fitbit by Google, which was originally announced in November 2019.
Google, whose parent company, Alphabet, in 2018, generated 85% of its $136.22 billion in revenue from delivering targeted advertisements, has a past of competition law infringements in the European Union. Fitbit is a company that produces and sells health tracking technologies and wearables including smartwatches, health trackers, smart scales and other health tracking services including via mobile.
We believe that a merger between Google and Fitbit will contribute to Google’s digital dominance and exploit our freedoms for profit. This is why we are asking the Australian regulator to step in and block this merger!
Concerns and asks we put forward in our submission
First, it is important for regulators to also incorporate into their analyses the way personal data contributes to the corporate concentration of digital platforms, including Google. Google’s past and on-going projects, acquisitions and general efforts to enter the insurance/health data sector could potentially indicate their desire to expand their reach into these markets by acquiring vast amounts of sensitive personal data, which at the same time are afforded enhanced protections under data protection laws.
Second, the proposed acquisition is likely to have detrimental effects on consumers whose rights might be infringed by data exploitative and/or abusive practices, as well as competitors and other businesses which may face major restrictions to enter or be excluded from entry into the general search, the mobile device operating system and the online advertising markets.
Finally, taking into account Google’s history in relation to compliance with data protection and competition laws, as well as its failure to live up to its promises before regulators, it is our view that the proposed acquisition will grant Google unprecedented access to sensitive personal data and is likely to have the effect of substantially lessening competition in markets such as the general search market, digital advertising market, as well as health/insurance markets.
We therefore asked the ACCC to prohibit the proposed acquisition in accordance with its powers under section 50 of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010, and at the very least consider remedies that will mitigate the risks.
The ACCC investigation highlights that the merger is of international concern. This is why we are also considering what steps we can take in other jurisdictions and ask regulators to take action before it is too late.
The laws that are in place to protect our data and prevent abuse of dominance must be enforced - this is definitely not the future any of us want to see!
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