An investigation has been launched into a merger between two assistive technology companies amid concerns that it could reduce choice and innovation and lead to higher prices for customers.
But the merging pair have insisted that the joining of the two companies will mean an increased rate of innovation and a broader range of products to benefit users with disabilities.
The CMA has today confirmed it will carry out an “in-depth” investigation of Tobii and Smartbox’s merger after its initial ‘Phase 1 investigation’, which found “anti-competitive concerns”.
Tobii and Smartbox design and supply technology to enable people with complex speech and language needs to communicate.
These solutions include specialised hardware and software, such as speech generating devices.
The companies are the leading suppliers in this sector, and each other’s main competitors. The firms provide assistive technology solutions to both end-users and the NHS.
The CMA is concerned that the merged company would face little competition, which could lead to a reduced range of products being offered, higher prices and fewer new products being developed.
Two weeks back, the CMA said that it would refer the merger for a full investigation unless the parties offered “acceptable undertakings” to address its competition concerns.
Today the CMA said it was not confident that the undertakings Tobii offered would resolve the concerns “in a clear-cut manner”.
The CMA has therefore decided to refer the merger for an in-depth Phase 2 investigation.
A decision on the merger will be made by a group of independent panel members supported by a case team of CMA staff.
Fredrik Ruben, president of Tobii, said: “Tobii Dynavox’s ambition is to increase its innovation and empower more people to communicate and to realise their dreams and potential, regardless of disabilities or impairments.
“We are convinced that this merger is a positive thing for the many in need for assistive technology for communication.”
The CMA outlined in its annual plan last year that it will place a new focus on protecting some of the most vulnerable customers in society from unfair trading.
Image credit: Tobii AB