On Monday, the FTC asked the two companies for more information about the $1.7 billion deal, according to an investor in iRobot, known as a “second request” and an indication of deeper scrutiny by antitrust officials.
The investigation underscores how FTC officials are closely scrutinizing Amazon’s merger activity following calls by consumer advocates to block the iRobot deal.
Earlier this month, more than two dozen groups wrote to the agency saying the deal could help Amazon “consolidate monopoly power in the digital economy.” For starters, they argued that Amazon could sell Roombas at a loss or tie it to its Prime subscription service and potentially put other smart vacuum makers out of business. They also said that Amazon’s control of Roombas could give it access to detailed data about consumers’ home designs, interiors and lifestyles that could benefit the e-commerce business at the expense of rivals who do not have access to that database.
In addition to the IRobot deal, the FTC has also filed a second request regarding Amazon’s acquisition of healthcare provider One Medical for $3.9 billion, according to a separate investor filing earlier this month. The FTC’s second requests could extend the time it takes for the merger to close, as they bar deals until the companies comply with regulators’ information requirements.
Amazon has previously asked FTC Chairman Lina Khan to recuse herself from all cases related to the company, saying her past as a critic of the voice technology industry should disqualify her. The FTC declined to comment on the request.
In 2017, Khan published an influential paper in the Yale Law Journal highlighting Amazon’s antitrust concerns. The paper is widely credited with starting a national debate about US antitrust law and whether it is enough to hold Big Tech platforms to account.
Last month, the FTC announced that it is considering new regulations for US companies that could limit how they collect, use and share consumers’ personal information. The regulations could affect businesses across the economy, including Amazon.