The U.K.’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has confirmed that it’s assessing Amazon’s billion-dollar bid for robot vacuum maker iRobot.
The case is still at its earliest possible stage, where the CMA is essentially soliciting comments from relevant stakeholders to establish whether there may be a “substantial lessening of competition” in the U.K. as a result of Amazon buying iRobot.
The CMA hasn’t provided any specific timescales or deadlines for when it will announce whether to proceed with an official investigation.
Founded some 30 years ago out of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), iRobot is probably best known for its Roomba-branded autonomous vacuum cleaners, though it also offers tangential products capable of mopping floors.
With Amazon’s gradual foray into the smart home, as well as its own dabblings in home robotics, including integrations with Roombas, it wasn’t necessarily a huge surprise that iRobot would be a tempting proposition for Amazon, which tabled $1.7 billion to buy the publicly traded company in August. But against a backdrop of growing regulatory scrutiny in Big Tech, it was perhaps inevitable that the megabucks deal would draw the attention of authorities around the globe.
Across the water in mainland Europe, EU regulators are reportedly preparing to investigate Amazon’s iRobot acquisition on privacy grounds, due to concerns over how Amazon might combine data from the two companies to gain a competitive advantage. In its domestic market, meanwhile, Amazon is already in the regulators’ crosshairs as part of a multifaceted investigation covering acquisitions, competition, privacy and more. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is currently mulling over an official investigation into its iRobot deal, though notably the FTC did greenlight Amazon’s $3.9 billion One Medical acquisition.
As for the U.K., it currently has a bunch of antitrust deals to contend with. Just yesterday, regulator Ofcom revealed that it was preparing to refer the U.K. cloud infrastructure market for an in-depth investigation, with Amazon’s AWS and Microsoft specifically in focus. Microsoft’s bumper $68.7 billion bid for Activision is also in the CMA’s line of sight, as is Broadcom’s planned $61 billion VMware acquisition. And some 18 months ago, the CMA ordered Facebook parent Meta to sell off Giphy, which it had bought the previous year for $400 million.
So while today’s news doesn’t necessarily mean that Amazon’s iRobot deal is in peril, it’s clear that the U.K. has an appetite for interrogating Big Tech’s M&A endeavors. And with EU and U.S. regulators also eyeing up a potential in-depth investigation, it would not be overly surprising if the U.K. did decide to launch an official inquiry.
An Amazon spokesperson told TechCrunch that the company is “working cooperatively with the relevant regulators in their review of the merger,” adding that consumers “have many options to choose from when they buy a vacuum.”