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Google completes purchase of Fitbit

Google completes purchase of Fitbit

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The $2.1 billion acquisition was announced in November 2019

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Fitbit’s recent Sense smartwatch.
Fitbit’s recent Sense smartwatch.
Photo by Brent Rose for The Verge

Google has completed its $2.1 billion acquisition of Fitbit, the company announced today. The news follows the EU’s announcement late last year that it had approved the deal, after Google made a series of commitments about its planned operation of Fitbit and use of the its health data.

In its announcement, Google’s hardware chief Rick Osterloh said the acquisition was “about devices, not data.” Emphasizing this point, he reiterated Google’s commitments about how it will handle the acquisition in markets around the world. These pledges include not using Fitbit users’ health and wellness data for Google’s ad tracking.

Osterloh also said the deal won’t affect how third-party fitness trackers work with Android, or how Fitbit works with other non-Google services.

The acquisition was announced back in 2019

In a statement, Fitbit’s CEO James Park welcomed the news, and said the acquisition would let the company “innovate faster, provide more choices, and make even better products.” However, he added emphasized that Fitbit’s products and services would continue to work across both iOS and Android.

“We will maintain strong data privacy and security protections, giving you control of your data and staying transparent about what we collect and why,” Park said.

It was data concerns like these that have prompted regulators around the world to investigate the deal. Late last year, EU regulators gave the deal their approval, completing an investigation they began back in August.

The approval came with a number of conditions, including that Google cannot use Fitbit data from users in the European Economic Area (EEA) such as GPS and health data for ad targeting. As part of the approval, EEA users must also be able to opt-out of having their health and wellness data shared with other Google services, and Google has agreed to continue to support third-party wearables with Android. Those commitments, including the option to opt out, will apply to Fitbit users worldwide, Google tells The Verge, so that users outside the EEA can take advantage.

Google’s announcement appears to have been made prior to the Australia’s Competition & Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) final decision on the acquisition. In late December, The Guardian reported that Google risked up to a $400 million fine if it proceeded with the deal without the regulator’s approval. However, an ACCC spokesperson has since told us it does not fine companies for completing mergers prior to gaining its approval.

In December, the ACCC rejected Google’s proposed conditions for the deal over data concerns as well as fears that it could force Fitbit’s rivals out of the wearables market because of their reliance on Google’s Android. Although ACCC Chair Rod Sims acknowledged the concessions Google had offered, he expressed concerns that they could not be “effectively monitored and enforced in Australia.” The Australian regulator said its investigation would continue, ahead of a new decision date of March 25th, 2021.

The US Department of Justice also released a statement on Thursday saying it, too, was still investigating the deal, and that it had not reached a conclusion prior to Google’s announcement.

“The Antitrust Division’s investigation of Google’s acquisition of Fitbit remains ongoing. Although the Division has not reached a final decision about whether to pursue an enforcement action, the Division continues to investigate whether Google’s acquisition of Fitbit may harm competition and consumers in the United States,” reads the statement, according to The New York Times. “The Division remains committed to conducting this review as thoroughly, efficiently, and expeditiously as possible.”

Google declined to comment on the record regarding the ACCC’s ongoing investigation, but it did release a statement regarding the DOJ. “We complied with the DOJ’s extensive review for the past 14 months, and the agreed upon waiting period expired without their objection,” a Google spokesperson said. “We continue to be in touch with them and we’re committed to answering any additional questions. We are confident this deal will increase competition in the highly crowded wearables market, and we’ve made commitments that we plan to implement globally.”

Google announced its acquisition of Fitbit over a year ago in November 2019, when Osterloh called it “an opportunity to invest even more in Wear OS as well as introduce Made by Google wearable devices into the market.”

In his letter announcing the acquisition, Park said Fitbit has now sold more than 120 million devices across over 100 countries.

Update January 14th, 10:13AM ET: Added statement from the Department of Justice indicating its investigation into Google’s acquisition of Fitbit is ongoing.

Update January 14th, 10:41AM ET: Clarified that Google’s commitments to EU regulators will apply worldwide, including the ability to opt out of data sharing. Also noted that Google declined to comment on the record regarding the ACCC’s ongoing investigation of the deal.

Update January 14th, 12:25PM ET: Added on-the-record statement from Google regarding the DOJ’s ongoing investigation.

Update January 18th, 3:22AM ET: Added additional response from ACCC clarifying fines.

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