The merger between British cybersecurity company Avast and US rival NortonLifeLock has been put on hold after a warning that the deal could lead to a fall in competition.
Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) investigators said the two firms have few competitors, and an in-depth inquiry into the £6 billion deal may need to be carried out.
The CMA said: “As the companies are close competitors, with few other significant rivals, the Competition and Markets Authority is concerned that, if completed, the proposed deal could lead to a reduction in competition in the UK market.
“This could lead to UK consumers getting a worse deal when looking for cyber safety software in the future.”
CMA executive director David Stewart said: “We are living more of our lives online and it is vital that people have access to competitive cyber safety software when seeking to protect themselves and their families.
“NortonLifeLock’s proposed purchase of Avast could lead to a reduction in competition in the UK and ultimately a worse deal for consumers when looking for cyber safety software.
“Unless the companies can offer a clear-cut solution to address our concerns, we intend to carry out an in-depth Phase 2 investigation.”
Both sides now have a week to submit proposals to address CMA concerns, with the organisation having a further week to decide whether a Phase 2 investigation should be launched.
The deal was first announced in August last year, pending approvals from regulators.
It was supposed to be completed this month but, due to investigations in the UK and Spain, this was pushed back to April.