The recent decision by the European Commission (EC) to thwart the proposed acquisition of iRobot by Amazon1 stands out as a glaring misstep which will undermine progress in technological innovation. Far from safeguarding competition and protecting consumer interests, the EC's intervention in this case suggests Brussels might be prioritising political motives over the potential benefits of the merger, with Chinese rival companies benefiting.

There has been widespread criticism of the EC's move, which ultimately harms competition in the market. Experts and industry insiders voice concerns about the EC's intervention.2 Contrary to the EC’s claims, experts say there is a lack of direct competition between Amazon and iRobot, meaning competition concerns should not have stopped the merger from going ahead.

At its core, the EC's rationale for blocking the Amazon-iRobot deal—that it would somehow compromise competition in the robot vacuum cleaner market—appears dubious. iRobot, renowned for its pioneering work in this field, occupies a distinct niche within the home robotics sector, one which Amazon has yet to enter. In this light, the EC's claim of anticompetitive behaviour seems less a matter of evidence-based analysis and more a product of speculative fears and assumptions.

Geoffrey Manne, president and founder of the International Center for Law & Economics, argues the EC's rationale is based on far-fetched hypotheticals about dramatic actions Amazon could take in the future, such as limiting or foreclosing competitors from selling on Amazon, rather than concrete evidence, ultimately undermining consumer interests.3

The ramifications of the EC's decision extend far beyond regulatory scrutiny. By impeding the merger, the EC risks stifling innovation and hindering competition in a sector ripe with potential. Alden Abbott from Truth on the Market emphasises that the merger could have promoted efficiencies, raised welfare, and enhanced competition, benefiting consumers in the long run.4

Moreover, the EC's actions threaten the financial viability of iRobot,5 which was already struggling amidst regulatory uncertainty.6 The company now faces an uncertain future, forced to scale back operations and lay off a significant portion of its workforce. Tom Hebert from Americans for Tax Reform highlighted how the collapse of the Amazon-iRobot deal highlights the dangers of regulatory delays.7 Prolonged approval processes heap extra compliance costs on small companies like iRobot. This outcome undermines iRobot's viability and deprives consumers of the potential benefits which could have arisen from the merger, such as an injection of cash.

The merger between Amazon and iRobot promised greater investment in research and development, leading to the introduction of new products and technologies which would enhance consumer choice and satisfaction. With this potential now dashed, the EC inadvertently favours Chinese competitors in the market, paving the way for their further dominance in the global robotics sector. This outcome is particularly concerning given the increasing dominance of Chinese firms in the global robotics sector. Such unintended consequences run counter to the EC's stated objective of promoting8 fair competition and consumer welfare.

In light of these concerns, the EC must reassess its approach to antitrust regulation, particularly concerning mergers and acquisitions. Europe is already falling behind in innovation, and unnecessary interventions like this will only make the problem worse.9 Rather than reflexively blocking deals based on speculative fears, regulators should adopt a more nuanced and evidence-based approach which considers the broader implications for innovation, competition, and consumer welfare. By fostering an environment that encourages investment and collaboration, regulators can ensure a more vibrant and dynamic marketplace that benefits all stakeholders.

The EC's decision to block the Amazon-iRobot deal represents a missed opportunity to promote innovation and competition in the home robotics sector. By succumbing to political pressures and overlooking the potential benefits of the merger, the EC risks undermining its own mandate to protect consumer interests. Moving forward, regulators must strike a balance between enforcement and fostering a conducive environment for innovation, one which prioritises the long-term welfare of consumers and the vitality of the marketplace.

This article was written by Martyna Smółka. Martyna is a graduate of the Warsaw School of Economics and Bocconi University and an author in the areas of social policy, healthcare, and economics. She has worked at the Mercatus Center, and she is a policy fellow with Young Voices Europe.


1 Amazon. (2024). Amazon and iRobot Agree to Terminate Pending Acquisition.
2 SIIA. (n.d.). SIIA Statement on European Commission Intention to Block Amazon-iRobot Acquisition.
3 Manne, G. @geoffmanne. (2024, March 24). Twitter.
4 Manne, G., & Svetlik, S. (2024, January 22). A European Commission challenge to iRobot's acquisition is unjustified and would harm dynamic competition. Truth on the Market.
5 Reuters. (2024, January 31). Amazon's abandoned acquisition leaves iRobot, Carlyle in debt straightjacket.
6 CNN Business. (2024, January 29). Amazon's abandoned acquisition of Roomba maker iRobot leads to layoffs.
7 Washington Examiner. (n.d.). How European regulators killed an American company. Restoring America.
8 Computer & Communications Industry Association. (2024, January). Amazon's iRobot acquisition challenged by European Commission.
9 World Economic Forum. (2019, March). Europe is no longer an innovation leader - here's how it can get ahead.