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Democrats demand FTC probe Amazon-iRobot deal

Democrats demand FTC probe Amazon-iRobot deal


The FTC has already asked Amazon and iRobot for documents related to the deal, but it’s unclear if the agency plans to open a formal investigation

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Illustration of the Amazon logo
Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

The Federal Trade Commission is facing mounting pressure to block Amazon’s proposed $1.65 billion purchase of iRobot, the company behind Roomba autonomous vacuums.

In a letter to FTC Chair Lina Khan on Thursday, a group of Democratic lawmakers argued that the proposed merger would unfairly bolster Amazon’s dominance in the smart home market by acquiring one of the company’s leading competitors. They also criticized Amazon’s data privacy and security practices following past acquisitions of companies like Ring, including data sharing partnerships with over 600 law enforcement agencies across the country.

“iRobot is a powerful market incumbent, and Amazon, given its vast resources, history of producing smart vacuums… and powerful platform, is an extraordinarily significant ‘potential entrant’ into the market,” the lawmakers wrote on Thursday.

“Amazon’s ability to acquire iRobot would cause substantially less competition”

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) led Thursday’s letter along with four other House lawmakers, including Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), who represents thousands of Amazon workers in Seattle. 

Over the last two years, antitrust enforcers in the US and EU have launched a series of investigations into Amazon and its products. Most recently, Politico reported that the FTC was investigating the company’s plans to enter the healthcare market by purchasing One Medical for nearly $4 billion. Earlier this year, Amazon finalized its purchase of MGM for $8.45 billion, but it’s unclear if the agency plans to further review the deal as of publication.

Earlier this month, The Wall Street Journal reported that antitrust enforcers at the FTC were already reviewing the proposed deal. iRobot confirmed in recent securities filings that the FTC formally requested any documents outlining the proposed purpose and scope of the merger. 

“Given Amazon’s record of infringing on consumers’ privacy, and their ongoing history of anticompetitive mergers to increase their monopoly power, the FTC should use its authority to oppose the Amazon – iRobot transaction,” the lawmakers wrote.

These investigations would be led by Chair Khan, whose criticisms of Amazon’s market power led to her rise in prominence. Khan published a legal paper in 2017 arguing that the federal government may need to pass new antitrust statutes to properly address the market dominance of online tech platforms like Amazon.