EU probes business threats from Alexa and Siri voice assistants

EU competition regulators are seeking information from 400 companies to establish if there are problems in the market for voice assistants such as Alexa and Siri and other internet-connected devices that could lead to antitrust cases.
Alexa and SiriThe European Commission has opened similar inquiries in the past into sectors such as e-commerce, pharmaceuticals, financial services and energy that led to cases against companies and eventually hefty fines, Reuters reported.

Consumers will interact with voice assistants on over 8.4 billion devices by 2024; growing 113 percent compared to the 4.2 billion devices expected to be in use by year end 2020.

The number of voice assistant devices in Europe will only exceed North America by 2022, and then only marginally, thanks to fewer devices being launched into those markets. Monetisation of the voice assistants themselves remains a challenge, Juniper Research said.

Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri and Alphabet’s Google Assistant are among the most popular voice assistant devices.

“It sends an important message to powerful operators in these market that we are watching them and that they need to do business in line with competition rules,” European Competition Commission Margrethe Vestager told a news conference.

The EU executive said its interest was prompted by the large amounts of user data involved in consumer “internet of things” devices and it wanted to make sure market players did not use their control of such data to hurt competition or thwart rivals.

“Interoperability is of the essence if we want to make this market accessible,” Vestager said.

Vestager, who can fine companies up to 10 percent of their global turnover for breaching EU antitrust rules, has made the tech industry the centrepiece of her enforcement efforts, taking on Google, Apple, Amazon and Facebook in recent years.