On 16 July 2020 the EU Commission launched a sector inquiry into the consumer Internet of Things (IoTs). Under Article 17 of Regulation 1/2003 the Commission can conduct a sector inquiry into a particular sector of the economy where there are concerns that markets are not working as well as they should and where this does not appear to be as a result of breaches of Articles 101 or 102 TFEU. The inquiry will enable the Commission to gather information in order to better understand a range of issues in this sector that are giving it cause for concern.
The inquiry will focus on consumer products and services that are connected to a network and can be remotely controlled. It will include wearable devices (smart watches, fitness trackers) and smart home appliances (fridges, washing machines, smart TVs, smart speakers, lighting systems). It will also look into services available through these devices, such as music and video streaming services, and voice assistance to use the devices. These products and services rely heavily on user data and the Commission wants to ensure that practices such as restrictions on access to data, interoperability and proprietary standards do not distort competition.
The Commission will now start to collect the necessary information from a wide range of market players and it is expected to publish a preliminary report based on the information gathered in the spring of 2021. This will be followed by a consultation on these initial findings and the final report should be available in the summer of 2022.
The latest sector inquiry is part of the Commission’s digital strategy which includes other initiatives relating to artificial intelligence, data and digital platforms.