Pierre Régibeau, 13 March 2021

On 15 December 2020, the European Commission approved the acquisition of Fitbit by Alphabet, subject to a number of commitments. The case caused considerable concern that Google will gain unfair advantages in the online advertising market and ensure its dominance in digital health, with dire consequences for privacy. Critics also feared the acquisition would reduce Google’s incentives to keep its Android ecosystem open to rival wearable products. This column argues that the decision is appropriate, addressing the four main concerns. The suggested theories of harm have remedies or they are not supported by evidence to the requisite legal standard. 

Cristina Caffarra, Gregory Crawford, 05 October 2020

Another week, another tech merger, but this time with huge potential implications for who owns our health data and how it is used. Cristina Caffarra and Greg Crawford tell Tim Phillips why 17 economists have written a paper describing harm that Google's acquisition of Fitbit would cause to consumers.

Download Policy Insight 107

Marc Bourreau, Cristina Caffarra, Zhijun Chen, Chongwoo Choe, Gregory Crawford, Tomaso Duso, Christos Genakos, Paul Heidhues, Martin Peitz, Thomas Rønde, Monika Schnitzer, Nicolas Schutz, Michelle Sovinsky, Giancarlo Spagnolo, Otto Toivanen, Tommaso Valletti, Thibaud Vergé, 30 September 2020

The European Commission is conducting an in-depth investigation of the Google/Fitbit deal. A static, conventional view would suggest limited issues from a merger of complements. Yet, as this column outlines, unprecedented concerns arise when one sees that allowing for Fitbit’s data gathering capabilities to be put in Google’s hands creates major risks of “platform envelopment,” extension of monopoly power and consumer exploitation. The combination of Fitbit’s health data with Google’s other data creates unique opportunities for discrimination and exploitation of consumers in healthcare, health insurance and other sensitive areas, with major implications for privacy too. We also need to worry about incentives to pre-empt competition that could threaten Google’s data collection dominance. As the consensus is now firmly that preventing bad mergers is a key tool for competition policy vis-a-vis acquisitive digital platforms, the European Commission and other authorities should be very sceptical of this deal, and realistic about their limited ability to design, impose and monitor appropriate remedies.

Cristina Caffarra, Tommaso Valletti, 04 March 2020

Events

CEPR Policy Research