EU approves Google’s $2.1bn Fitbit buyout

The European Commission has approved Google’s long-awaited purchase of Fitbit for $2.1 billion, following an in-depth investigation.

Fitbit first entered an agreement with the BigTech business in November last year, but the purchase was subject to approval by Fitbit’s stockholders and regulatory approvals, including an EU investigation into how the purchase would impact competition in the digital health space.

The EU said that the approval is conditional on full compliance with a commitments package offered by Google.

The Commission is concerned that following the transaction Google could put competing manufacturers of wrist-worn wearable devices at a disadvantage by degrading their interoperability with Android smartphones.

It has also found that following the purchase, Google might “restrict competitors' access to the Fitbit Web API” and that “such a strategy would come especially at the detriment of start-ups in the nascent European digital healthcare space.”

Google will also have access to the database maintained by Fitbit about its users’ health and fitness, which has also raised concerns around advertising.

The EU said that by “increasing the already vast amount of data that Google could use for the personalisation of ads, it would be more difficult for rivals to match Google's services in the markets for online search advertising, online display advertising, and the entire “ad tech” ecosystem.”

Google has said it will carry out several commitments to address each of these concerns.

The tech business promised it will not use health and wellness data collected from the wearable devices for ads.

It has also committed to maintain access to users' health and fitness data to software applications through the Fitbit Web API, without charging for access and subject to user consent.

The duration of the commitments is a decade, but the Commission may decide to extend the Ads commitment by an additional ten years

“We can approve the proposed acquisition of Fitbit by Google because the commitments will ensure that the market for wearables and the nascent digital health space will remain open and competitive,” said executive vice president Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy. “The commitments will determine how Google can use the data collected for ad purposes, how interoperability between competing wearables and Android will be safeguarded and how users can continue to share health and fitness data, if they choose to.”

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