Germany launches competition probe into Google

26 May 2021136 Views

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The probe will examine Google’s data processing and has been launched under new German competition regulations that recently came into force.

Germany’s competition watchdog has opened an investigation into Google’s handling of data and how it may amount to an unfair competitive advantage.

The country’s Federal Cartel Office, or Bundeskartellamt, opened proceedings against Google Germany, Google Ireland – which is the tech giant’s EMEA headquarters – and parent company Alphabet.

The probe will examine Google’s position in the market and how it uses people’s data across its various services and the level of transparency given to users.

Given Google’s vast portfolio of products – email, search, maps, video, web browsing, to name a few – the regulator said this could create a dominant position and be uncompetitive.

“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,” Andreas Mundt, the regulator’s president, said.

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“Due to the large number of digital services offered by Google, such as the Google Search engine, YouTube, Google Maps, the Android operating system or the Chrome browser, the company could be considered to be of paramount significance for competition across markets.”

The watchdog’s probe will have two key parts. It will examine whether Google’s “paramount significance” limits competition, and secondly it will examine Google’s data processing terms.

“Google’s business model relies, to a very large extent, on processing data relating to its users. Due to its established access to data relevant for competition, Google enjoys a strategic advantage,” Mundt added.

“We will therefore take a close look at the company’s data processing terms. A key question in this context is whether consumers wishing to use Google’s services have sufficient choice as to how Google will use their data.”

The investigation is being carried out under an amendment to the German Competition Act, which came into force in January.

The probe comes just a few days after the Federal Cartel Office opened proceedings against Amazon under that same amendment.

Jonathan Keane is a freelance business and technology journalist based in Dublin

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