The market power of Siri, Alexa and Google is questionable, according to EU regulators by Reuters

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Executive Vice President of the European Commission for a Europe fit for the digital age (competition) Margrethe Vestager gives a press conference in front of the European Commission in Brussels, Belgium, June 3, 2021. Stephanie Lecocq / Pool via REUTERS

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From Foo Yun Chee

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The dominance of Amazon’s Alexa (NASDAQ :), Apple’s Siri (NASDAQ 🙂 and Alphabet’s Google Assistant (NASDAQ 🙂 raised concerns about potential anti-competitive practices, according to EU antitrust authorities on Wednesday.

The European Commission’s comments come after a year-long survey of voice assistants and other internet-connected devices, and responses from more than 200 companies.

Similar investigations in industries such as e-commerce, pharmaceuticals, financial services and energy have historically resulted in legal proceedings against companies and heavy fines.

Alexa, Siri and Google Assistant are the most popular voice assistants in Europe, with the world market expected to double from 4.2 billion to 8.4 billion devices between 2020 and 2024, according to Statista.

“We have seen evidence that some practices we know too well can result in tips and gatekeepers appearing,” EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager told reporters.

“And the preliminary results released today show that our concerns are shared by many players,” she said.

Vestager said it was too early to say whether the investigation would lead to legal proceedings against companies, which after a 12-week public consultation ended September 1 and a final report due in the first half of 2022, to be decided.

The EU antitrust regulator said that respondents raised concerns about certain exclusivity and retention practices related to voice assistants, such as:

A second concern was that providers of voice assistants advertise their own services or those of third-party providers using standard settings on devices, thus restricting competitors.

A third concern focused on the amount of data available to providers of voice assistants and smart devices, while a fourth concern was the lack of interoperability between devices.

Amazon said there is intense competition in the smart home market.

“There will be and should not be a winner. Today, Alexa is compatible with over 140,000 smart home products, and we’re making it easy for device manufacturers to integrate Alexa directly into their own products, ”said a spokesman.

Amazon said it has added 80 companies to its Voice Interoperability Initiative, which gives customers the ability to access multiple voice services on one device.

Google and Apple did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Vestager has proposed tough new rules known as the Digital Markets Act, which target a number of these practices. The draft has to be worked out with the EU legislature and the EU countries before it can probably be implemented in the next year.

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