FTC Urged To Block Amazon's Roomba Purchase

Amazon's proposed $1.7 billion acquisition of iRobot Corporation -- parent company of automatic vacuum cleaner Roomba -- is a threat to privacy as well as competition, advocates say in a letter to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

“There is no more private space than the home. Yet with this acquisition, Amazon stands to gain access to extremely intimate facts about our most private spaces that are not available through other means, or to other competitors,” more than two dozen organizations -- including Public Citizen, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Center on Privacy & Technology at Georgetown Law -- say in a letter sent Friday to the FTC.

The groups are urging the agency to “challenge the acquisition on the strongest legal grounds it can muster.”

The letter comes one month after Amazon said it plans to purchase iRobot, which first launched Roomba in 2002 and has since introduced robot maps, air purifiers and handheld vacuums.

The watchdogs argue that the deal would boost Amazon's position in the internet-of-things market, arguing that the company “already dominates the smart home device market” through Alexa and associated products, including the Ring doorbell.

What's more, according to the watchdogs, Amazon could sell Roomba products “at or near a loss” to Prime subscribers, which would then enable the company to harness more consumer data.

“Amazon seeks to unduly expand its market power by eliminating a competitor through acquisition, rather than through organic growth,” the organizations write. “The company also aims to minimize fair competition by exploiting consumer data not accessible to other market participants.”

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