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I Want My Robot Lawnmower!

Amazon’s iRobot merger as shown by a robot and lawnmower hanging out

One of the greatest things about capitalistic markets is the development of exciting new products. Fueled by competition and ongoing investments of R&D, companies find innovative goods that benefit consumers and society. This fuels the spirit of entrepreneurship and enables continuous progress and social advancement, and it’s from this point of view that iRobot, maker of household robotics devices, looked forward to its merger with Amazon. But based on a recent announcement from the European Commission, Amazon’s iRobot merger will not take place. Citing antitrust laws and Big Tech monopolies as its basis, the Commission disapproved the deal completely… and along with it went the potential innovations the public deserves.

Amazon’s iRobot merger is dead, as shown by a lonely robot
Amazon’s iRobot merger would’ve brought robot lawnmowers to the forefront. But alas, the European Commission put the kibosh on things.

(The government wants to ban gas stoves–read more about the nonsense in this Bold story.)

Veto of Amazon’s iRobot merger is not something totally unexpected given today’s regulatory climate. Excessive government overreach when it comes to businesses are increasingly occurring within the U.S. and abroad. Certainly, the rapid development of new technologies and a failure of regulators and legislators to keep pace play a role. But in their effort to “catch up,” consumers, workers, and markets in general are paying the price. At the moment, the pendulum is swinging toward increased oversight and bold business restrictions. And antitrust laws and Big Tech fears are driving these actions. This is not ideal when it comes to looking out for consumers, and it is undermining opportunities for innovative discoveries. Governments are frequently getting it wrong, and it’s time for them to step back and reassess their choices.

Amazon’s iRobot Merger Ruling

As a company, iRobot makes a number of robotic household goods including its traditional vacuums. But it also invests heavily in technology R&D to design new consumer products as well. One of the more recent innovations the company has designed involved a robotic lawnmower. No one enjoys mowing their lawn, and such a device could gain immediate customer appeal at the right price. This was among one of the factors driving Amazon’s iRobot merger. But before the merger could proceed, the European Commission citing antitrust laws and Big Tech monopolies pushed back. It stated such a merge would squash competition among other robotic vacuum companies and force them to foreclose. As such, the Commission refused to approve the deal.

Upon hearing the announcement concerning Amazon’s iRobot merger collapse, iRobot made some statements of its own. The company will subsequently be laying off nearly a third of its employees. It will also no longer be pursuing R&D into robotic household products. Clearly, this isn’t good for innovation or consumers. At the same time, there was little to support the use of antitrust laws and Big Tech fears as justifications for the ruling. Other robotic vacuum companies utilize Amazon to sell their products as well. As such, Amazon would have no incentive to squash these companies since it would hurt their own revenues. Doing so would also hurt Amazon’s brand reputation among both its platform sellers and customers. Needless to say, it seems pretty evident the Commission got this one quite wrong.

a sad, lonely robot lawnmower
Stifling Big Tech and the free market bodes ill for robot lawnmowers.

Excess Government Overreach Trends

Amazon’s iRobot merger ruling from the European Commission isn’t the only such action taken by government entities. Since 2016, various agencies have been pursuing Big Tech to a much greater extent due to concerns about monopolies. This is particularly true for the Federal Trade Commission, which assisted the European Commission in its recent ruling. In fact, Lina Khan, the FTA’s current chair, notified Amazon that it would too be filing suit over the iRobot merger. This of course is not required now. However, the FTC is pursuing other similar actions against Amazon. It too citing antitrust laws and Big Tech monopolies has filed a suit along with 17 other states regarding unfair competition practices. And Amazon isn’t alone with both Google and Meta as well as Apple having been recently targeted by the FTC.

Upholding antitrust laws and Big Tech oversight is clearly a focus of the FTC and the European Commission as of late. But Big Tech isn’t the only ones being targeted by excessive government overreach. Other mergers are also being harassed by the FTC including the one between Kroger and Albertsons. These two grocers, who employs mostly unionized workers, is seeking to merge to improve economies of scale. This is in the face of increased competition from other major chains including the German company, Aldi’s. However, the FTC is suing against the $25 billion merger claiming it will suppress competition and raise food prices. In actuality, it will do just the opposite while allowing their employees to keep their jobs. In fact, the merger is believed to save the companies $500 million in operating costs. This would in turn be used to improve efficiencies that would lower prices, not raise them.

Consumer Protection or Consumer Harm

a dude with a laptop trying to program a lawnmower
Anti-trust laws and Big Tech mean no robotic lawnmowers in the near future.

Both the Commission and the FTC are tasked with protecting consumers and encouraging competition, innovation, and market advancement. It would seem, however, that these government bodies are choosing to focus only on a small part of their responsibilities. By preventing Amazon’s iRobot merger, it will prevent innovation, progress, and consumer opportunities. By preventing the Kroger Albertson merger, it will expose consumers to higher prices of foods while costing many jobs. Certainly, there is a place for antitrust laws and Big Tech concerns. But based on recent actions, government rulings are leveraging these things to consumers and society’s disadvantage.

Anti-trust laws and Big Tech oversight are things that do require attention at times. But it is important that government agency determinations remember their role in the process. In Amazon’s iRobot merger, there will be more consumer harm than good. Innovation and new products that could benefit society will be delayed to market. Many employees will lose their jobs. And the competition that would have resulted from new innovations will be reduced. Research has actually shown that new products drive greater investments in R&D across an entire industry. All of these developments reflect the negative repercussions of recent FTC and Commission rulings. As a result, a robot lawnmower and many other creative offerings will be delayed.

 

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