By Brian Fung, CNN
The Federal Trade Commission is taking a closer look at Amazon’s proposed acquisition of iRobot, the company that produces the Roomba series of automated vacuum cleaners, according to a financial disclosure on Tuesday.
On Monday, the FTC requested more information from both companies about the $1.7 billion deal, according to an investor filing from iRobot, in what’s known as a “second request” and an indicator of deeper scrutiny by antitrust officials.
The investigation highlights how FTC officials are closely reviewing Amazon’s merger activity following calls by consumer advocates for the iRobot deal to be blocked.
Earlier this month, more than two dozen groups wrote to the agency alleging the deal could help Amazon “entrench their monopoly power in the digital economy.” For starters, they argued, Amazon could seek to sell Roombas at a loss or in connection with its Prime subscription service and potentially drive other smart vacuum makers out of business. Furthermore, they claimed, Amazon’s control of Roombas could give it access to detailed data about consumers’ home layouts, interiors and lifestyle that could benefit its e-commerce business at the expense of rivals that do not have access to that trove of data.
Amazon didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on the FTC probe
In addition to the iRobot deal, the FTC has also sent a second request on Amazon’s proposed acquisition of health care provider One Medical for $3.9 billion, according to a separate investor filing this month. FTC second requests can lengthen a merger’s time to close because they prohibit deals from being consummated until the companies have complied with regulators’ information demands.
Amazon has previously called for FTC Chair Lina Khan to recuse herself from all cases involving the company, claiming that her past as a vocal tech industry critic should disqualify her. The FTC has previously declined to comment on that request.
In 2017, Khan published an influential paper in the Yale Law Journal highlighting potential antitrust concerns with regard to Amazon. The paper is widely credited with having jump-started a national debate about US antitrust law and whether it is sufficient to hold Big Tech platforms accountable.
Last month, the FTC announced it is considering drafting new regulations for US businesses that could limit how they collect, use and share consumers’ personal information. The regulations could affect companies across the economy, including Amazon.
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