The European Commission said in a preliminary report, released on Wednesday (9), that it is concerned about the market power of voice assistants from Apple, Google and Amazon. According to the antitrust agency, Siri, Google Assistant and Alexa do not operate with devices from competitors and, therefore, harm competition in the Internet of Things (IoT) market, making it difficult for new companies to enter the field.
EU: Siri, Alexa and Google Assistant inhibit competitors
The European Commission’s conclusion on voice assistants comes after a year of investigation into the Internet of Things sector; the agency investigated the impact of Apple, Google and Amazon, companies called “gatekeepers” due to their strong and insurmountable market presence.
The agency interviewed 200 companies that responded to a questionnaire about artificial intelligence, voice assistants and other IoT-related topics.
One of the sore points of the Commission’s investigation is the impossibility of using more than one voice assistant per device – Siri, Alexa and Google Assistant are only compatible with devices from their manufacturers.
They also often serve as an intermediary between the user and other devices, which also worries the EU due to the impact brands have on consumer preference.
The extensive access to data that Siri, Alexa and Google Assistant give their brands is another problem pointed out by companies heard by the European Commission. This includes accessing websites and information about third-party devices, among other IoT services.
The inspection agency points out in the preliminary report:
“Particularly a few voice assistant and operating system providers possibly unilaterally control the interconnectivity and integration processes; and are capable of limiting functions of third-party equipment and IoT services, in relation to the devices themselves”
Number of voice assistants expected to double by 2024
In the statement that discloses sensitive items investigated by its antitrust agency, the EU believes that the market for voice assistants grows as the world gets used to the idea of smart home. The number of devices that respond to voice commands is expected to double between 2020 and 2024 – from 4.2 billion to 8.4 billion; although only 11% of Europeans have a device at home.
European Union competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager told reporters it was too early to say whether the report should lead to sanctions against major companies that have voice assistants – Google, Apple or Amazon.
The consultation with companies in the IoT sector, which is part of the investigation, should be concluded on September 12th; the final version of the report was scheduled for 2022.
Amazon, which was fined late last year for gaining undue advantage using vendor data, responded to the report by TechCrunch:
“There is fierce competition in the sector. There won’t be, and there shouldn’t be, a single winner. We recognized this from the beginning and programmed Alexa accordingly. Today, Alexa supports over 140,000 smart home products, and we’ve made it easy for device manufacturers to integrate it with their own products. We also founded the Voice Interoperability Initiative — with 80 members — which is committed to consumer choice and flexibility in accessing multiple voice services on a single device.”
Apple and Google did not comment on the preliminary report.
With information: TechCrunch, Reuters and EU