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  • Writer's pictureMarie-Avril Roux Steinkühler

Google subject to extended abuse control in Germany

Updated: Jan 27, 2022

The German Competition Authority (Bundeskartellamt) recently decided that Alphabet Inc, and therefore its subsidiary Google, is subject to extended abuse control. Two topics are specifically targeted: the issue with personal data and the noncompliance with new related rights of press editors through the Google News Showcase.

A newly introduced provision under the German Competition Act (§ 19a GWB) enables the German Competition Authority to intervene earlier and more effectively, in particular against the practices of large digital companies. In a two-step approach the Bundeskartellamt can prohibit companies which are of paramount significance for competition across markets from engaging in anti-competitive practices.

The Bundeskartellamt did not wait long… Less than a year after the entering into force of said text, the first decision is taken and acknowledge the overwhelming importance of Google on the market. On this basis, the Bundeskartellamt now plans to target specific and practical behaviours that it believes to be harmful to healthy competition.

The institution holds that Google is of paramount significance for competition across markets because of its economic position of power. This latter gives rise to a scope of action across markets that is insufficiently controlled by competition. Holding more than 80 per cent of the market shares, Google has a dominant position on the market for general search services in Germany and is the main search advertising provider. In addition, Google is a powerful provider of a wide range of services in Germany and reaches a large number of users. With regard to the marketing of online advertising, Google also offers advertising services with a wide reach covering the entire value chain.

Thanks to the well-known services and products offered by google such as google Search engine, the mapping and navigation system, the app store Play Store and the Android operating system, Alphabet gathered huge amount of personal data from its users.

Google therefore has excellent access to data relevant for competition. Google’s large user base, its widely used advertising services and the large number of user data it can collect across services and partly also across devices allow Google not only to market targeted adverts but also to continuously develop its services.

In accordance with statutory provisions, the validity of the Bundeskartellamt’s decision is limited to five years. During this period, Alphabet Inc will be subject to special abuse control by the Competition Authority.

The European Union and States still continue to develop administrative and legislative tools to stay in the cat-and-mouse game with the GAFAM…

Do you have questions regarding German tech law? Are you having difficulties understanding German competition law? MARS—IP helps international and French companies develop their strategies in tech, copyright and brand law in Germany, France or internationally. Feel free to contact us.


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