German antitrust regulator starts proceedings against Alphabet

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Germany’s antitrust regulator, the Federal Cartel Office, said on Tuesday that it will start proceedings against Google Germany, Google Ireland, and Alphabet (the company that owns them). The charges brought are about the exploitation of market domination and data collected for that purpose.

The investigation comes after the latest amendment in Germany’s Act against Restraints of Competition (GWB) came into effect at the beginning of this year in January. The 10th amendment to the law says that German regulators have the prerogative to look into matters concerning giant digital companies.

The new law

Under this amended law, if the regulator has significant evidence that digital platforms have ‘paramount significance’ that cuts across markets, it can restrict some of the actions taken by these companies, if they are seen to be anti-competitive.

In a statement, the watchdog said that it will first start by deciding if the Search Engine fits the ‘paramount significance’ description. If it does, the regulator will then look at how Google processes data to understand whether the company promoted practices meant to quash the competition.

It comes down to consumer protection and choice

The statement said that Google has multiple digital services like YouTube, Maps, Chrome, and more. This gives it the advantage since it is usually the dominant force in most markets. Because of the established access to data relevant in competition, Google has a strategic hold on many regions of the world.

President of the Federal Cartel Office, Andreas Mundt, said that the key question in this context is whether consumers who would like to use Google’s offerings have sufficient choice concerning how their data is used. Google says that people use the services because they are helpful and not because they are not able to find alternatives.