Voice Assistants Targeted by EU

The European Commission warned about the growing market power of Apple’s Siri, Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa. The EC flagged concerns the voice assistants were being used to promote anti-competitive practices.

The Commission sought input from more than 200 companies of various sizes in Europe, Asia and the US into the consumer IoT market. EC Vice president Margrethe Vestager explained it commenced the probe due to the fast development of the sector, with the EC seeking to ensure all firms in the growing sector had the opportunity to innovate and bring new products and services to market. However, Vestager said the EC saw early indications some practices may lead to the emergence of gatekeepers and, if confirmed, these could lead to new competition cases being opened in the future.

The Commission found operating systems and voice assistants played a central role interconnecting different smart devices and services, with respondents flagging the potential for providers of the services to engage in behaviours that negatively affect competition. In the EU, the regulator said Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa and Apple’s Siri were the leaders, while all three also operated the main OS for smart home and wearable devices.

The enquiry raised four main concerns, according to Vestager: attempts to restrict the number of voice assistants accessible on smart devices, potentially taking over direct relationships with users by implementing default settings to give prominence to specific services, data collection, and interoperability. Vestager invited all businesses, interested citizens and stakeholders to share feedback on its preliminary findings, all of which will provide guidance and feed into its regulatory work.

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