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Amazon's Acquisition of Roomba Maker iRobot Is Under FTC Scrutiny

Watchdogs are concerned that Amazon controls too much of the smart home market.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Amazon's $1.7 billion acquisition of iRobot is being closely looked at by the Federal Trade Commission, the maker of Roomba robot vacuum cleaners said in a new filing published Tuesday. 

"On September 19, 2022, iRobot and Amazon each received a request for additional information and documentary materials" on the merger, said the notice, which was filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The request for more information indicates the deal is being scrutinized closely by the FTC, according to CNN. Amazon declined to comment, and the FTC didn't immediately respond to a request for comment. The scrutiny comes as Amazon awaits approval of a separate acquisition of One Medical. The FTC has also sent a second request to Amazon and 1Life Healthcare, the parent of One Medical, as part of its review of the deal. 

Lawmakers and regulators concerned with issues of monopoly power have Big Tech companies in their sites. The FTC is headed by Lina Khan, who made antitrust questions raised by Amazon and other tech companies a special focus of her legal scholarship prior to becoming chair of the agency. Amazon has asked that Khan recuse herself from investigations involving Amazon. In June 2021, US Senators proposed a slate of antitrust legislation that targeted the practices of Amazon, Apple, Google and Facebook parent company Meta, among others. 

After Amazon agreed to acquire iRobot in August, a group of organizations, including Fight for the Future, Color of Change and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, raised concerns in an open letter about Amazon acquiring a competitor in the home robotics field, as well as the possibility of adding information about Roomba users' homes to its horde of consumer data.

"The deal will further entrench Amazon's hold on the smart home technology ecosystem, eliminate competition in that sector and enhance the company's monopoly power," the groups said in the letter.

Dave Limp, Amazon's senior vice president of Amazon devices, said in a statement last month that the company was drawn to iRobot's history of innovation.

"Over many years, the iRobot team has proven its ability to reinvent how people clean with products that are incredibly practical and inventive," Limp said in the statement, "from cleaning when and where customers want while avoiding common obstacles in the home, to automatically emptying the collection bin." 

Read also: Best Robot Vacuum for 2022