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EU opens in-depth antitrust probe into Amazon’s iRobot deal

TechnologyEU opens in-depth antitrust probe into Amazon's iRobot deal

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A vacuuming Roomba model robot is displayed at iRobot headquarters in Bedford, Massachusetts

Scott Eells | Bloomberg | Getty Images

The European Commission said Thursday that it’s opened a comprehensive and “in-depth” investigation into Amazon‘s planned $1.7 billion acquisition of Roomba maker iRobot.

The executive arm of the EU said it was concerned the transaction might restrict competition in the market for robot vacuum cleaners, and would further strengthen Amazon’s position as an online marketplace provider.

The Commission, like its U.S. antitrust counterpart, has the power to block the proposed acquisition. Shares of iRobot were little changed on the news.

Among the Commission’s concerns are that Amazon would be able to engineer search results in favor of iRobot, leaving competitors like Shark and Dyson at a disadvantage in marketing to Amazon’s millions of users.

Concerns were also raised about Amazon’s use of iRobot user data, which the Commission said might provide the company “with an important advantage” over rivals and “raise barriers to entry and expansion” for current or future competitors.

“The Commission will now carry out an in-depth investigation into the effects of the proposed transaction to determine whether its initial competition concerns are confirmed,” the statement said.

Amazon announced the iRobot deal last year as part of an effort to expand its presence in the smart home. The Competition and Markets Authority, Britain’s antitrust watchdog, cleared the deal in June. It’s still under review by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, which has requested information from iRobot multiple times on the deal, according to regulatory filings.

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FTC chair Lina Khan penned a widely-cited paper on Amazon’s potentially anticompetitive behavior while at Yale Law School, and Amazon has sought to have Khan recused from any FTC probes into the e-commerce company.

“We continue to work through the process with the European Commission and are focused on addressing its questions and any identified concerns at this stage,” an Amazon spokesperson told CNBC in a statement.

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