US lawmaker probes FTC work with Europe to block Amazon iRobot merger

House Oversight and Accountability Committee hearing as part of the House of Republicans' impeachment probe into U.S. President Biden, in Washington

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The chair of the House Oversight Committee said on Wednesday he is investigating the Federal Trade Commission's (FTC) work with the European Commission in the collapse of Amazon.com's plan to acquire iRobot Corp in a $1.4 billion deal.

Amazon and robot vacuum maker iRobot in January dropped their plans to tie-up in the face of opposition from European and U.S. antitrust regulators.

"The FTC’s anticompetitive actions threaten to harm America’s global position in the personal robotics market, while ceding market share of personal robotics to foreign entities such as China," Republican Representative James Comer said in a letter to the FTC asking for documents shared by the FTC with the European Commission. "The FTC’s actions indicate to American businesses that the FTC will work outside of U.S. antitrust law by using the EC to realize its desired outcomes."

The FTC declined to comment. Amazon and iRobot did not immediately comment.

After the deal collapsed, iRobot in January announced a significant restructuring plan to reduce costs and said it would cut about 31% of its workforce, or 350 jobs. The company also said founder Colin Angle had stepped down as its CEO.

Amazon said in January the deal had no path to regulatory approval in the European Union.

EU antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager in January said its in-depth investigation preliminarily showed "the acquisition of iRobot would have enabled Amazon to foreclose iRobot's rivals by restricting or degrading access to Amazon stores."

Separately, the FTC was poised to reject Amazon's deal before the companies announced they were abandoning it, a source told Reuters in January.

Amazon announced the deal in August 2022. The world's largest online retailer, which already owns Alexa and Ring, was pushing to expand its stable of smart home devices as well as expanding the e-commerce giant's virtual healthcare.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; editing by Diane Craft)