European Commission's review of the Google/Fitbit merger
Our intervention before the Commission in its review of the merger between Google and Fitbit
Case M.6990 Google/Fitbit
On 15 June 2020, Google formally notified the European Commission of its proposed acquisition of Fitbit, which was originally announced in November 2019.
Google’s acquisition of Fitbit raises a number of significant competition and privacy concerns, related to Google’s power in a number of key markets and stands to have negative consequences for consumers and for wider society. We are particularly dismayed that sensitive health data such as the data currently controlled by Fitbit could be acquired by a dominant digital platform such as Google, with the potential to be combined with Google’s existing bank of data and then spread and reused in circumstances that could impair people’s privacy, dignity and entitlement to equal treatment.
On 3 July 2020, PI submitted our comments on the proposed acquisition to the European Commission. We also applied to be recognised as an interested third party and be afforded a right to be heard. In our submission, we outlined the serious concerns that the transaction raises. Specifically, we believe that the proposed acquisition requires very close scrutiny by the Commission. It is highly likely to significantly impede effective competition in several vitally important markets and result in the strengthening of Google's dominant positions, with ramifications for competition and in turn upon consumers and wider society. In particular, the proposed acquisition would:
further augment Google's dominance in the search and digital advertising markets as Google would benefit from Fitbit's valuable data troves, leading to a further lessening of competition in these markets;
allow Google further market power in the market for data-dependent health services, including by eliminating competition between Google and Fitbit in this increasingly important market and raising barriers to entry, with negative consequences for consumers;
lead to the foreclosure of competitors to Google in the growing wearables market and therefore lead to a lessening of competition in the wearables market; and
reduce what little pressure there currently is on Google to compete in relation to privacy options available to consumers (both existing and future Fitbit users), leading to even less competition on privacy standards and thereby enabling the further degradation of consumers' privacy protections.
We are happy to be working with Hausfeld & Co LLP, who are representing and providing support to PI with regard to the European Commission's review.