Specifically, the Lina Khan treatment
Big Tech companies have cemented their leadership positions in various industries by making strategic and sometimes outright anti-competitive acquisitions. The Federal Trade Commission is keeping a close eye on Big Tech — especially since Lina Khan, a competition hawk, was sworn in as the agency’s president in June 2021. Fast forward to August of this year when Amazon announced it would acquire iRobot, the company behind the hugely popular Roomba robot vacuum. Investors have expressed concerns about whether the deal will face regulatory review and it appears those concerns have been validated, with the FTC now seeking further clarification on Amazon’s deal with iRobot.
iRobot confirmed the development in a notice filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission saying the FTC has requested “additional information and documentary materials” from the company and Amazon. While that doesn’t necessarily mean the end of the merger, it certainly underscores the FTC’s willingness to look into allegations of anticompetitive practices by Big Tech companies. Amazon did not comment on the agency’s request for more information. The FTC didn’t have much to say either.
As CNET notes, Amazon is also awaiting regulatory approval for its acquisition of One Medical, a company owned by 1Life Healthcare, and an indication of Amazon’s growing healthcare ambitions.
Amazon’s announcement of the iRobot acquisition in August was met with criticism from organizations including Color of Change, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and Fight for the Future, which wrote a joint open letter expressing concerns that Amazon is collecting large amounts of data from Roomba users. The letter also expressed concerns about the company’s acquisition of an industry rival to shore up its market position.
Amazon has been accused of intimidating vendors and manufacturers who use its e-commerce platform in various ways, such as removing buy buttons from a vendor’s product listings if the company finds the vendor was selling the same product at a lower price on a competing site. The state of California is suing Amazon for this behavior (via TechCrunch). Acquiring a market-leading competitor would give Amazon more leeway to differentiate itself from other players in the space.
Prior to her appointment as FTC chairwoman, Lina Khan was a legal scholar who closely investigated antitrust complaints against Big Tech companies like Amazon, Google and others. Amazon believes this is a conflict of interest and has asked Khan to recuse himself from any investigation involving the company. The FTC officially began its review of the Amazon-iRobot merger earlier this month (via Reuters) and is now seeking additional information about the deal.