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EU commission investigating digital assistants

EU investigating the dominance of digital assistants

Big tech companies’ digital assistants strong position in the EU is a competition concern for the European Commission.

The comments from the Commission come after a year-long inquiry into voice assistants and other internet-connected devices, to which among more than 200 companies responded.

“We saw indications that some practices that we know too well may lead to tipping and to the emergence of gatekeepers,” Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said.

“And from the preliminary results published today, it appears that our concerns are shared by many players.”

“It is too early to say but if some practices are confirmed, this could lead to new competition cases being opened in the future.”

The Commission has now launched a public consultation that runs until September 1 to get more information.

Vestager stressed that in the EU, Google Assistant, Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri are the leading ones. In addition, Google, Amazon and Apple provide the main operating systems for smart home and wearable devices, they offer digital services and they manufacture smart devices.

She said that the preliminary findings of the competition inquiry into the consumer “Internet of Things” focused on four issues.

  • There are concerns about attempts to restrict the number of voice assistants accessible on smart devices so that producers of smart devices can be prevented from installing a second voice assistant on one device.
  • Voice assistant providers could take over the direct relationship with users. As users control and access their devices and services via the voice assistant. Voice assistant providers can then promote their own services or the services of third-parties.
  • Voice assistants collect enormous amounts of data which gives big advantages, especially as voice assistants accumulate data from different devices and services.
  • There seems to be limited interoperability between products, services and technology of different providers which can lock-in consumers into using devices and services of mainly one or a few providers.

She informed that the Commission had responses from companies of all sizes, from Europe, Asia and the United States. These companies offer smart devices such as smart speakers, smart TVs, smart coffee makers, fitness trackers or smart watches.

“For our final report, we still need to better understand the extent of the concerns.  This is why today, with the publication of the preliminary findings, we are launching a public consultation.”

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