Investigation into tech deal which could affect NHS patients
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has expressed concerns over the merger of two leading ‘assistive tech’ companies.
Publicly listed Swedish eye-tracking company Tobii announced a 100 per cent acquisition of British assistive tech company Smartbox in 2018.
The CMA warns that the deal may lead to less choice, higher prices and reduced innovation for customers.
Both companies design and supply tech which enables people with complex speech and language needs to communicate.
These products include specialised hardware and software, such as alarm systems, speech generating devices and hearing technologies.
The leading suppliers in the sector are each other’s main competitor, and the CMA is concerned that the merged company would face little competition, leading to a less products in development and higher prices.
“These are vital technologies bought on behalf of vulnerable people by the NHS, charities and schools,” said Mike Walker, Chief Economic Advisor.
“We believe that the merger could stifle innovation and lead to less choice. We will launch a further in-depth investigation if the companies fail to address our concerns.
”Protecting vulnerable consumers is at the heart of the CMA’s Annual Plan.”
Tobii and Smartbox now have until 1 February 2019 to offer solutions to resolve the CMA’s concerns, otherwise the merger will be referred for a Phase 2 investigation.
“Tobii Dynavox’s ambition is to increase its innovation and empower more people to communicate and to realize their dreams and potential, regardless of disabilities or impairments,"said Fredrik Ruben, business unit president at Tobii Dynavox
"We are convinced that this merger is a positive thing for the many in need for assistive technology for communication."