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Sen. Warren Asks FTC to Nix Amazon Purchase of Roomba Maker

The senator and House colleagues point to what they call "Amazon's anticompetitive policies" in a letter.

Amazon Prime logo on a phone screen
The deal is already under scrutiny from the FTC.
Sarah Tew/CNET

Sen. Elizabeth Warren and five members of the House of Representatives asked the Federal Trade Commission in a letter Thursday to oppose Amazon's proposed acquisition of iRobot, the manufacturer of the robot vacuum Roomba, 

"Given our concerns with Amazon's anticompetitive policies that put consumers and their privacy at risk, we urge the FTC to oppose the proposed Amazon-iRobot acquisition," the lawmakers wrote in the letter, which Axios reported earlier Thursday

In a statement, an Amazon spokesperson pushed back on the claims made by Warren, a Democrat from Massachusetts, and her colleagues. 

"The letter contains a number of falsehoods and is broadly inaccurate," the spokesperson said. "We will continue to cooperate with regulators, and we are confident that this deal is pro-competitive and will make customers lives better and easier."

The deal, announced in August, was already under scrutiny from the FTC. The agency made a second request for information from both Amazon and iRobot as part of its review of the deal. The request extends the review process and indicates a higher level of scrutiny. The company is also in the process of acquiring One Medical, a primary care provider with in-person and telehealth services. The FTC has also made a second request for information in that deal.

The scrutiny comes as lawmakers worry about tech companies extending their reach into ever more markets. On Thursday, the House voted to pass a bill that would increase funding to agencies that enforce antitrust laws. The legislation would do that by raising fees paid to the government during mergers. Lawmakers have also introduced a broader slate of antitrust legislation aimed at Big Tech companies. 

The FTC is chaired by Lina Khan, an antitrust reformer who wrote a legal analysis Amazon's potential monopoly powers. The agency is running a broader probe into Amazon's practices, as well as an examination of Amazon's planned merger with MGM.

In response to Thursday's letter, Amazon pointed out that the lawmakers erred when claiming in the letter that the company previously tried to compete with iRobot by introducing its Amazon Astro home and the Terra robotic lawnmower. Astro doesn't vacuum, and Terra was an iRobot product, not an Amazon device. Amazon also said that the Roomba competes with all vacuum products, not just robotic ones. 

The company also pushed back on the idea that it buys and then closes down competitors, citing Ring, Pill Pack and Whole Foods as examples of companies it acquired and continues to run.