The German Federal Cartel Office — Bundeskartellamt — is looking into Google’s market power to determine if the search giant should be held to new digital competition mandates, according to a Tuesday (May 25) press release.
The German competition watchdog is investigating Google Germany, Google Ireland and its parent company Alphabet to determine if its range of digital services — search, YouTube, Maps, Android operating system, Chrome browser — gives it a dominant position across markets.
“An ecosystem which extends across various markets may be an indication that a company holds such a market position. It is often very difficult for other companies to challenge this position of power,” said Andreas Mundt, president of the Bundeskartellamt.
Mundt added that Google’s numerous digital services could amount to “paramount significance” regarding competition across sectors.
The German Competition Act was amended in January 2021 with a new provision that gives agencies the authority to “intervene earlier and more effectively” when it comes to a technology company’s digital practices. Digital companies deemed as having “paramount significance” can be prohibited by the Bundeskartellamt from engaging in anti-competitive behaviors, according to the release.
“Google’s business model relies to a very large extent on processing data relating to its users,” Mundt said, adding that the data access is important for competition, which gives Google a “strategic advantage.”
The watchdog is planning to examine Google’s data processing terms and determine if users have adequate freedom of choice over what personal information is tapped and how it will be utilized. The bottom line goal of the mandates and probes is the protection of consumer choice.
Competition authorities in the U.K., Australia, and Germany warned companies last month that the COVID-19 pandemic could not be used as an excuse for acquiring rivals that would cripple competition. The U.K. also is developing a Big Tech regulator to oversee firms like Google and Facebook.
New anti-competition mandates handed down by the European Union did little to prevent Google from continuing to dominate the market, a report in September 2020 indicated. Competitors charged that nothing has changed despite hefty fines levied against the Silicon Valley search giant.