The ACCC has outlined a series of preliminary concerns with Google’s proposed US$2.1-billion acquisition of Fitbit that was announced in November 2019.
The watchdog has stated that Google’s access to consumer health data may increase entry barriers, entrench its already-dominant position, and adversely impact competition in digital advertising and health markets.
“The ACCC’s Digital Platforms Inquiry found that Google’s substantial market power is built on its concentration of search and location data, and data collected via third-party websites and apps,” said ACCC Chair Rod Sims.
“Past acquisitions by Google, of both start-ups and mature companies like Fitbit, have further entrenched Google’s position. The access to user data available to Google has made it so valuable to advertisers that it faces only limited competition,” said Sims.
Fitbit – which makes a range of fitness trackers and other wearable devices – has collected health information from its consumers for more than 10 years. This includes data on sleep, step counts, and heart rates.
Another key concern is whether Google would favour its own wearables over those of competitors in its other services, such as Google Maps, Google Play Store, and Google Search.
Given the rapidly evolving nature of the digital landscape, the ACCC has stated that it cannot conclude that there will be no negative impact on competition.
“Our position is where there is uncertainty, especially surrounding such important markets, the ACCC must thoroughly investigate the potential for an acquisition to stymie future competition,” Sims said.
As they work through the acquisition inquiry, the ACCC has stated that they plan on working closely with competition authorities in other jurisdictions that are also reviewing this transaction.