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Amazon’s latest robotics, healthcare buys have the FTC asking more questions

Amazon’s latest robotics, healthcare buys have the FTC asking more questions


Investigators should be very familiar with Amazon’s execs by now

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Illustration of Amazon’s logo on a black, orange, and tan background.
Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is investigating Amazon’s plans to acquire robot vacuum maker iRobot and the 1Life healthcare company behind One Medical, according to reports from Politico and The Wall Street Journal. Amazon announced a $3.9 billion deal to buy One Medical in July and said it would acquire iRobot for $1.7 billion just weeks later.

One Medical serves as a sort of Netflix-for-healthcare subscription service that gives customers access to in-person and virtual appointments at 125 clinics across the US for $199 per year. Meanwhile, iRobot’s known for its line of Roomba robot vacuums that have only grown more adept at understanding users’ homes and their habits with the rollout of iRobot OS.

The acquisitions of both companies align with Amazon’s long-term goals of carving out its own lane in the healthcare industry, as well as collecting more data about its customers, something Amazon could do with Roomba’s home-mapping capabilities.

The FTC’s investigations could slow — or potentially stop — Amazon’s acquisition of both companies. FTC Chairwoman Lina Khan has been a vocal critic of Amazon and its practices. Amazon pushed back against Khan’s plans to regulate the company when she first took on the role of Chairwoman, and more recently asked the FTC to limit its investigation and pursuit of testimony from current CEO Andy Jassy and former CEO Jeff Bezos, calling it “burdensome.”

This could take a while

Amazon’s bid to buy iRobot is facing similar scrutiny from the FTC. Sources close to the situation told Politico that both companies are preparing for a “potentially lengthy, arduous investigation” to see if the merger violates antitrust laws. The FTC’s investigation will reportedly focus on whether the data provided by Roomba gives Amazon an unfair advantage in the retail industry, and how the line of robot vacuums would fit in with Amazon’s existing smart home products, like Ring and Alexa.

Shortly after announcing the potential 1Life merger, Amazon said it’s shutting down its virtual health service, Amazon Care, at the end of this year. Politico points out that the FTC could see this move as anti-competitive, since Amazon is simply buying out one of Care’s potential competitors, instead of opting to compete with it.

As noted by the Journal, 1Life disclosed the FTC’s review of the acquisition in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on Friday. Amazon’s proposed acquisitions of 1Life and iRobot come after Amazon bought out MGM for $8.45 billion.