BRUSSELS – Google could be able to stave off a full-scale EU antitrust investigation into its proposed $2.1 billion Fitbit offer by promising not to use health data from Fitbit to help target advertising, said people familiar with the issue.
The deal announced last November allows Google, an Alphabet unit, to take on Apple and Samsung alongside others including Huawei and Xiaomi in the fitness tracking and smartwatch market.
Apple is the leader in the global wearables industry with a market share of 29.3 percent in the first quarter of 2020, led by Xiaomi, Samsung, and Huawei, according to data from the Multinational Data Corp market research company. Fitbit’s market share was 3 percent.
Still, the agreement has drawn strong criticism from privacy advocates on both sides of the Atlantic, concerned that Google may use Fitbit’s health data cache to improve its online advertisement and search supremacy.
The EU regulators asked competing for wearable device manufacturers, software developers, and other online service providers as well as healthcare providers for their views earlier this month.
Google could mitigate antitrust concerns by giving EU market enforcers a contractual pledge in line with last year’s agreement not to use health and fitness data from Fitbit for Google ads, people said.
The European Commission, due to deciding on the deal by 20 July, has declined to comment. The deadline to offer concessions to Google is July 13. Failure to do so would trigger a four-month-long investigation after the EU’s preliminary review is finished, sources said.
The wearables market is highly crowded and we believe the combination of the hardware efforts of Google and Fitbit would improve competition in the field, help customers and make the next generation of devices better and more affordable,” said a spokeswoman.
“We have been transparent during this process about our determination not to use Fitbit health and wellness data for Google ads and our duty to provide their data to people with choice and power,” she said.
The U.S. Department of Justice is also investigating the agreement while the Australian regulator said it would damage competition.
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