Google is in trouble again with the German Federal Cartel Office. The German competition watchdog accuses the search engine giant of thwarting competitors of the “Google Maps” mapping service.
Not the first accusation against Google
The relationship between the German Federal Cartel Office and Google is probably best described with the words “they know each other.” After all, the authority that is supposed to ensure fair and functional competition in Germany has already accused the big tech company from the U.S. of a few violations of applicable law. Just earlier this year, we reported that the German Federal Cartel Office had launched “extended abuse supervision” for the search engine giant. Here it becomes clear that the German authority displays a healthy distrust when it comes to Google’s behavior that complies with competition law. And, by the way, this applies equally to other tech corporations from the USA. Other well-known names such as Amazon and Apple also regularly have to deal with the competition watchdog.
On Tuesday, the 21.06.22 the authority communicated now that one will proceed again against Google’s parent company Alphabet and as it were also against the German offshoot “Google Germany”. In the context of a new procedure it concerns two different indications, which point to a competition law offence. In both cases, Google is accused of blocking market competitors’ access to its own map material from Google Maps. Consequently, the latter had to suffer a serious disadvantage on the market. Since many other companies link their services to Google Maps, the full scope of Google’s data is often essential. Consequently, so-called “bundling” with Google’s data often determines life and death in the software market.
Possible restriction by Google on services
The president of the German Federal Cartel Office, Andreas Mundt, now fears that Google could expand its supremacy even further by continuing this practice. Finally it makes the appearance as Google would offer many of its Maps services only as “Full service program”. This means that you can only benefit from the broad information package of the map service if you use Google Maps yourself. In view of the gigantic mass of data that the tech company can present, the choice seems almost without alternative. In particular, other, smaller providers like OpenStreetMap simply need the data to be able to keep up halfway. The German Federal Cartel Office would now like to review Google’s actions in the context of the new proceedings.
In addition to this accusation, however, there is also a completely different one. This makes it clear how important the automotive market has become for Google. After all, services such as Google Maps have virtually wiped out an entire industry in the form of navigation devices. Google’s actions in the area of software for automobiles is the second question mark that the Bundeskartellamt would like to clarify in its proceedings. According to Mundt, Google has questionable licensing conditions that definitely need to be reviewed. This involves, for example, the fact that the service expressly prohibits infotainment and map services from working together. This is certainly about the use of Android Auto.
Finally a short antitrust procedure
Federal Cartel Office proceedings have a reputation for taking many months, if not years, to complete. To change this, a new version of the Act against Restraints of Competition (GWB) came into force in 2021. This enables the competition watchdog to use a shortened legal process to reach its goal more quickly and stop allegedly illegal practices more quickly. The fact that the authority is pleased with the new tool in its toolbox can be seen from the fact that shortened procedures have been used regularly since the law reform came into force. If it turns out that Google has allegedly violated German competition law, the authority will save time in legal enforcement on top of that. Finally, the amendment has also changed the path of instances. Now the proceedings would be taken directly to the Federal Court of Justice.