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Google’s Fitbit takeover: EU merger control proves unable to protect consumers in the digital economy

18 December 2020
by BEUC -- last modified 18 December 2020

BEUC, representing the interests of consumers in 32 European countries, deeply regrets that the European Commission's decision to approve Google's takeover of wearable fitness device company Fitbit lacks enough force to protect consumers, now and in the future.


Even if the current remedy package represents an improvement compared to Google's first offer, it is insufficient to ensure effective competition in wearables and digital health, which are becoming increasingly important in consumers' lives.

Google can now use its takeover of Fitbit to further expand its already formidable ecosystem and data collection to restrict competition, choice and innovation across markets including those for digital health and wearable fitness devices.

"There is a serious risk that Google will exploit Fitbit users' data, including sensitive health data, in several markets", said BEUC Director General Monique Goyens, "despite Google's claim that its takeover of Fitbit is about devices rather than data. European patients and healthcare systems risk paying the price in terms of fewer and less innovative digital healthcare options. At the same time European consumers risk having less choice of wearable fitness devices. This may be another example of the inability of EU merger control to prevent companies like Google from ever expanding their market power."

"It's very disappointing", Monique Goyens underlined, "that the Commission, just as it has presented new proposals for a more forward-looking approach to gatekeepers in the digital era, has been unable to apply its existing merger control rules in a way that responds to the 21st century needs of the digital economy. After all, prevention of problems is better than cure. The Commission has in particular failed to heed the recommendations of its own Special Advisers1 on how best to apply competition rules in the digital era. It must focus on the full, dynamic effects on competition, now and in the future, that acquisitions of large amounts of data can have and on how such mergers can further strengthen already dominant digital ecosystems."

BEUC acts as the umbrella group in Brussels for its members and its main task is to represent them at European level and defend the interests of all Europe's consumers. BEUC investigates EU decisions and developments likely to affect consumers, with a special focus on five areas identified as priorities by its members: Financial Services, Food, Digital Rights, Consumer Rights & Enforcement and Sustainability.

The European Consumer Organisation (BEUC)