European Union regulators are inquiring information from 400 companies to find out if there is a need to start antitrust investigations into Alexa, Siri, and Google Assistant.
A new Bloomberg report explains that the European Commission has launched a broad antitrust inquiry into internet of things technologies such as voice assistants and connected mobile devices. The inquiry was announced Tuesday by the EU’s competition chief Margrethe Vestager.
In a statement, Vestager said that despite the vast potential of the internet of things to improve daily life for average people, the ability of voice assistants and other smart devices to gather data on users poses a significant threat to market competition.
“Voice assistants like Apple’s Siri, Google Assistant, [and] Amazon’s Alexa … allow us to control our smart devices without us having to look at a screen, … but we’ll only see the full benefits — low prices, wide choice, innovative products[,] and services — if the markets for these devices stay open and competitive,” Vestager said. “One of the key issues here is data. Voice assistants and smart devices can collect a vast amount of data about our habits. And there’s a risk that big companies could misuse the data collected through such devices, to cement their position in the market against the challenges of competition. They might even use their knowledge of how we access other services to enter the market for those services and take it over.”
The inquiry will seemingly focus on tech giants like Google, Apple, and Amazon, both for the central role their voice assistants play in the burgeoning smart home space, as well as for their role as “gatekeepers” to the market. Interoperability, says Vestager, is core to the success of the smart home as well as ongoing, healthy competition in the market. Thus, the risk of consumers getting locked into a single provider for appliances and other home goods could be on the rise.
According to the report, the EU is seeking information from 400 different companies, regarding everything from voice assistants to fridges, washing machines, and smart TVs. Its findings will be published next year, with a followup in 2022.
While it’s easy to view this investigation as yet another attempt by the EU to rein in US Big Tech, Vestager singled out Deutsche Telekom’s Magenta voice assistant as well.
“With a combination of competition enforcement and targeted regulation, we can help to build a better market for the exciting new products and services that the Internet of Things will make possible,” she added. “We can make sure that companies of all sizes have the benefit of a level playing field, where any business with a great idea and competitive culture has a real chance to succeed on its own merits.”