Competition update: Amazon drops its bid to gobble up iRobot! Microsoft/OpenAI partnership submission goes to the EC

Tech monopolies growing bigger and bigger is bad news for everyone. It’s bad for business, bad for innovation, bad for workers and bad for our democracies and social cohesion, making us more fragmented and societies increasingly unequal.

You might remember that tech giant Amazon was trying to buy a company called iRobot, the maker of Roomba the world’s most popular robot hoover for a whopping £1.6 billion. There’s been good news this week, Amazon announced it is ending its efforts to gobble up the smart vacuum cleaner company!

The climbdown came after the European Commission stepped up to the plate, putting pressure on Amazon that ultimately blocked the deal.

For 20 years, tech companies gobbled up competitors with impunity. Now, the tide is turning: regulators are exerting pressure to stop tech deals that will leave us all worse off.

This is also a huge win for the coalition that we’ve been working with to cut Big Tech down to size – and restore democratic control to the online world. 

Along with the Open Markets Institute, the Balanced Economy Project and SOMO, we sent a submission in August to the European Commission, alerting them to serious concerns that the merger would post a dire threat to competition in the smart home market. Those are the same concerns it has been reported led to the Commission being minded to block the acquisition.

That indication from the Commission was what led to Amazon sinking the deal. After announcing the deal was off, Amazon’s spokesperson said it had: “no path to regulatory approval in the European Union, preventing Amazon and iRobot from moving forward together.”

Amazon’s iRobot surrender comes as another major tech deal is lying squarely in regulators’ crosshairs: Microsoft’s “partnership” with OpenAI

This week, we again partnered with a broad coalition of civil society groups from across Europe to call on the European Commission to join the US Federal Trade Commission and British Competition Markets Authority in investigating this deal and potentially blocking it.

The full coalition is: Foxglove; the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL); the Open Markets Institute (OMI); the Balanced Economy Project; Rebalance Now; Article 19; the Mozilla Foundation; SOMO; Algorithm Watch; and the European DIGITAL SME Alliance.

The robust position taken by regulators towards these two deals is a sign that state and international authorities around the world are waking up to the pivotal role that antitrust must play in ensuring the future rewards from cutting edge tech are shared by everyone – not just a handful of multi-billionaires.

These giants will never willingly give up the power they have gobbled up over the past two decades. That’s why Foxglove is doing this work: encouraging and working with governments and regulators to stop Big Tech gorging itself on AI – and breaking up companies that have already become too powerful for democratic control. 

For all updates on our work to combat the monopoly power of the tech behemoths, hit the button below: