The European Union’s antitrust regulators want more time to complete their investigation into Google’s planned $2.1 billion acquisition of Fitbit Inc., the San Francisco-based consumer electronics and fitness company.
Reuters reported the European Commission, the executive branch of the 27-nation bloc responsible for managing the EU’s day-to-day business, extended the deadline to Dec. 23, the panel said on Wednesday (Sept. 23).
“The Commission extended the deadline in agreement with the parties,” the EU told the news outlet in an email.
Last month, the commission launched a full-scale antitrust review into the deal. While Google had pledged not to use health data collected through Fitbit to target ads, the assurances did not convince skeptical regulators, who said the search giant could use the vast amount of data it would acquire through the deal to sell ads and hurt competition.
“The use of wearable devices by European consumers is expected to grow significantly in the coming years,” Margrethe Vestager, the European Commission’s executive vice president, said in a statement in August. “This will go hand in hand with an exponential growth of data generated through these devices. Our investigation aims to ensure that control by Google over data collected through wearable devices as a result of the transaction does not distort competition.”
Google insists its merger with Fitbit would not hurt competition in the sector where players include Apple, Samsung, Xiaomi, Huawei and others.
In July, the European Commission said Google will have to make considerable concessions to win approval of the planned purchase.
The stakes are high as Google and EU regulators work through the approval process.
“Throughout this process, we have been clear about our commitment not to use Fitbit health and wellness data for Google ads and our responsibility to provide people with choice and control with their data,” Google said at the time. “Similar to our other products, with wearables, we will be transparent about the data we collect and why. And we do not sell personal information to anyone.”
In June, EU regulators said they expected a decision would be made by July 20.
The European Consumer Organization, the Brussels-based umbrella consumer group representing 32 countries, has warned that the deal could harm consumers and the wearables market.
“If Google acquires consumers’ data generated by the use of Fitbit wearables, including now COVID-19 related data, it would be able to use that data for its own benefit and could undermine the ability of other companies to bring new products to consumers,” the group wrote.
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