Way back in 2019 Google announced that they had purchased Fitbit — subject to various bodies’ approval. Fast forward to today when Rick Osterloh, Senior VP of Devices and Services at Google has announced that the acquisition of Fitbit is complete.
The road to Google’s acquisition of Fitbit has not been a smooth one though. Google ran into roadblocks in the form of objections from the EU Commission, as well as from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).
Google has managed to secure the blessing of the EU Commission, but only after much investigation and Google agreeing to certain data protections. Under the deal, the residents of the EU will have an option to opt out of sharing their Fitbit data with other Google services, as well as Google agreeing to not target ads at EU residents based on their Fitbit data.
The worry over user data privacy has been addressed by Mr Osterloh saying that the deal “has always been about devices, not data, and we’ve been clear since the beginning that we will protect Fitbit users’ privacy.”
Mr Osterloh also said that they have “worked with global regulators on an approach which safeguards consumers’ privacy expectations, including a series of binding commitments that confirm Fitbit users’ health and wellness data won’t be used for Google ads and this data will be separated from other Google ads data.”
The deal will not affect Fitbit users’ ability to use third party services rather than Google’s own services and Google will also not give Fitbit any access to their Android APIs that they don’t offer to other manufacturers.
Fitbit for their part have said that they’ll “stay committed to doing what’s right, to putting your health and wellness at the center of everything we do and to offering a no-one-size-fits-all approach with choices that work across both Android and iOS.”
Here’s the kicker though — the ACCC AND the US regulators are yet to approve the deal so it is strange that Google have announced that the acquisition is complete.
In December the ACCC told the Guardian that Google faced a fine of up to $400million “if it takes over Fitbit before the Australian competition regulator completes an investigation into the transaction.” The ACCC aim to make a decision by 25 March and it is possible that Google do not fear the ACCC — let’s face it , they have been a toothless tiger for so many years.
The ACCC’s chair, Rod Sims said that he was worried about Google’s “incentive to discriminate against other players” so we’d end up with a duopoly in wearables”. Even though Google has appeased the EU Commission with measures that prevent this from happening the ACCC have been so far unwilling to accept it.
It’s not just the ACCC but also the US Department of Justice who are still investigating the deal and are yet to reach a conclusion on it. Google released a statement in response to the US DOJ saying that they’ve complied with the DOJ extensive review for the past 14 months “and the agreed upon waiting period has expired, without their objection”. Essentially they are assuming the acquisition has the green light due to no objection.
As for the ACCC, Google had no comment so it is as irrelevant in the world view. In the meantime the rest of the world will hopefully get to see new and innovative products from Fitbit with help from Google — hopefully now we will see a Pixel Watch.