Google closed the Fitbit deal as US and Australian investigations continued | Instant News


WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Search and advertising giant Google closed its deal to buy fitness tracking firm Fitbit, it said on Thursday, even as US and Australian competition regulators said they were continuing to investigate a $ 2.1 billion transaction.

The Justice Department, which sued Alphabet Inc’s Google in October for allegedly violating antitrust laws in its search and search advertising businesses, said it “has not yet reached a final decision on whether to pursue enforcement action” over the Fitbit deal.

Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chairman Rod Sims said “depending on the results of our investigation, we will consider whether to take legal action on this matter”.

Google said it “complied with the extensive DOJ (Department of Justice) review over the past 14 months, and the agreed waiting period has ended without their objection.”

“We are in constant contact with them and we are committed to answering additional questions,” the company added.

Google did not immediately respond to Sims’ statement.

Large transactions are rare without antitrust approval.

Google won EU antitrust approval last month for a Fitbit bid after agreeing to restrictions on how it will use data related to customer health.

Australia rejects similar restrictions proposed by Google, expressing concerns that it might block Fitbit rivals from connecting to phones running Google’s Android operating software.

Fitbit makes watch-like devices for measuring physical activity that compete with Apple Watch and others. Google says it is buying the company to compete in this market.

“We are working with global regulators on an approach that protects consumer privacy expectations,” said Google in a blog post, which said Fitbit had 29 million active users.

“(It includes) a series of binding commitments confirming Fitbit users’ health and fitness data will not be used for Google advertising and this data will be separated from other Google advertising data.”

Although Alphabet is known for its free service, its search engine, it owns many other businesses, including online advertising services, audio devices and thermostat maker Nest, YouTube video streamer, and self-driving car company Waymo.

Google’s plans to buy Fitbit raised concerns when it was announced at the end of 2019 due to its already rich data set about people, what they buy, where they travel and more.

Fitbit fitness trackers and other devices monitor user steps and calories burned. They also measured floors climbed, heart rate, and how long and how well people slept.

Alphabet shares closed around 1% on Thursday. The company is expected to retain 1,800 Fitbit employees.

Reporting by Diane Bartz in Washington and Munsif Vengattil in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Paresh Dave in Oakland, California; Edited by David Gregorio and Christopher Cushing

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