Exclusive: Google, Fitbit deal set to win EU okay after fresh concessions - sources

Foo Yun Chee
·2-min read
FILE PHOTO: Fitbit Blaze watch is seen in front of a displayed Google logo in this illustration
FILE PHOTO: Fitbit Blaze watch is seen in front of a displayed Google logo in this illustration

By Foo Yun Chee

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Alphabet's Google is set to win EU antitrust approval for its $2.1 billion purchase of fitness tracker maker Fitbit to take on Apple and Samsung in the wearable technology market, people familiar with the matter said.

The world's most popular internet search engine on Tuesday offered fresh concessions to the European Commission in a bid to address concerns the deal could entrench Google's power in online advertising and boost its trove of data.

Google said it had offered to restrict the use of Fitbit data for Google ads and would also tighten the monitoring of that process, confirming a Reuters report. The offer is based on a July proposal.

"We're also formalizing our longstanding commitment to supporting other wearable manufacturers on Android and to continue to allow Fitbit users to connect to third party services via APIs (application programming interfaces) if they want to," Google said in a statement.

Third parties will also continue to have access to Fitbit users' data, with users' consent.

The concessions, reported earlier by Reuters, are set to clear the way for the deal to be approved, the people said.

The Commission, which is scheduled to decide on the deal by Dec. 23, declined to comment. Its decision could come earlier than the deadline.

The EU competition enforcer will now seek feedback from rivals and customers before deciding whether to accept Google's concessions, demand more, or either clear or block the detail.

Last month, it rejected Google's pledge not to use the fitness tracker's data for advertising purposes in a bid to address competition concerns, saying that it was insufficient.

The deal has drawn criticism from healthcare providers, wearables rivals and privacy advocates.

Fitbit, once the leader in the wearable devices market, had a 3% share of the global wearables market as of the first quarter of 2020, lagging behind Apple's 29.3% share, as well as Xiaomi, Samsung and Huawei, data from market research firm International Data Corp showed.

The Commission recently asked Google's rivals and customers about interoperability issues, what technical steps Google could take to foreclose competition to Fitbit to increase its sales, and what could prompt it to do so, according to a person familiar with the matter.

It also asked about issues related to digital healthcare and the kind of data Google needs, and where the U.S. company could acquire it, the person said, suggesting concessions may be needed in these two areas.

(Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; Editing by Kirsten Donovan and Mark Potter)