Australian regulator says Google’s $2.1b Fitbit deal may harm competition

Google stall at an event in Germany. Photo: Rajeshwar Bachu

Australia’s antitrust regulator warned Google’s planned $2.1 billion acquisition of fitness tracker maker Fitbit may give it too much of people’s data, potentially hurting competition in health and online advertising markets.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is the first regulator to voice concerns about the deal, which come at a time when the Alphabet Inc-owned tech giant is at loggerheads with the Australian government over planned new rules about how internet companies use personal information.

“Buying Fitbit will allow Google to build an even more comprehensive set of user data, further cementing its position and raising barriers to entry to potential rivals,” ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said in a statement on Thursday.

“User data available to Google has made it so valuable to advertisers that it faces only limited competition,” he added.

The regulator said its concerns were preliminary and it would announce the outcome of its review on August 13.

A Google spokeswoman declined to comment, while a Fitbit representative was not immediately available for comment.

Google wants the deal, which it announced in November, to help it compete with Apple and Samsung in the market for fitness trackers and smart watches.

But consumer groups have urged regulators to scrutinise it closely due to privacy concerns. The U.S. Justice Department is evaluating the deal, while the European Commission is due to give a ruling in July.

The ACCC does not generally have the power to block a deal outside Australia. In previous takeovers, it has ordered certain conditions such as asset sales.

Following an ACCC report last year, the government is working on new rules to make large internet companies disclose their data usage, and pay for the local media content they use. Google and Facebook Inc oppose most of the proposed changes.

Reuters

Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.

Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.