Report: Google Makes Concessions To Close Fitbit Deal In Europe

Google Makes Concessions To Close Fitbit Deal

Google’s wait for approval by the European Union (EU) of its $2.1 billion purchase of fitness tracker maker Fitbit is almost over.

Reuters reported that sources said the world’s most popular internet search engine is expected to get the antitrust green-light from the European Commission, the executive branch of the 27-nation bloc responsible for managing the EU’s day-to-day business.

On Tuesday, (Sept. 29), Google made concessions to the panel to alleviate concerns that the deal could consolidate Google’s power in online advertising and increase the amount of data it holds, the news service reported.

In a bid to settle the dispute, Google said it agreed to limit the use of Fitbit data for Google ads. In addition, the Mountain View, California-based company said it would tighten monitoring.

“We’re also formalizing our longstanding commitment to supporting other wearable manufacturers on Android and to continue to allow Fitbit users to connect to third-party services via APIs (application programming interfaces) if they want to,” Google said in a statement.

These concessions are expected to clear the way for the EU’s approval of the deal by Dec. 23, sources told Reuters.

The Commission is now expected to get feedback from customers and competitors before agreeing to accept Google’s concessions, ask for more concessions, or clear or block the initiative.

In August, Google pledged not to use the fitness tracker’s data for advertising purposes, but the Commission said a promise was not enough.

“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.” 

Following the announcement of the Fitbit deal last fall, consumer groups and regulators argued that Google would have an unfair competitive edge if it had Fitbit’s health information. In order for the sale to close, Google was asked to compromise to win speedy EU approval.

Initially, when Google made the pledge, a company representative said the deal was about devices, not data. But consumer groups said they were especially worried about a Google-Fitbit merger because Google has few rivals in the search engine space.

Last week, the EU’s antitrust regulators said they wanted more time to complete their investigation into Google’s planned acquisition of Fitbit. “The Commission extended the deadline in agreement with the parties,” the EU told Reuters in an email.