German Antitrust Watchdog Takes New Step To Regulate Google

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In a move that could spell trouble for Google, the German antitrust regulator Bundeskartellamt ruled that the tech giant has “paramount significance across markets,” according to a Wednesday (Jan. 5) press release

The decision puts the company one step closer to more stringent regulation or even an outright ban. 

As a result of new language added to the German Competition Act last year, the Bundeskartellamt, the nation’s national competition watchdog, can further regulate or prohibit firms that they allege engage in anti-competitive practices. In addition to Google, the new measures put the spotlight on Amazon, Apple and Meta.

While observers say the Bundeskartellamt’s decision is not surprising given Google’s global dominance, the regulator was required to take this first step before adopting further measures against the company. 

This two-step approach by the German government could lead regulators to implement the most stringent ruling against Google or any large digital company found to engage in anti-competitive practices — an outright prohibition. This is, however, an unlikely outcome in this case. 

In a statement, Andreas Mundt, president of the Bundeskartellamt, said authorities have had a new way to oversee large digital companies since January of last year. The ruling that Google has pervasive global significance, he said, opens the door to further directives. 

“This is a very important step since based on this decision the Bundeskartellamt can now take action against specific anti-competitive practices by Google,” he said. “We have already started to look into Google’s processing of personal data and to deal with the Google News Showcase issue in more detail. At the same time, we are vigorously conducting other proceedings against Amazon, Apple and Meta, formerly Facebook.” 

Google has said it will not appeal the decision and noted the ruling did not take a position on the company’s conduct. 

“We are confident that we comply with the rules and, to the extent that changes are necessary, we will continue to work constructively with the (Federal Cartel Office) to find solutions that enable people and businesses in Germany to continue to use our products,” Google said in a statement.

Google is also facing antitrust lawsuits at home.

Read more: Lawsuit Says Google Pays Apple to Keep Away From Internet Search Market

A class action lawsuit was filed Monday (Jan. 3) in California against Google, Apple and the CEOs of both tech giants for allegedly violating antitrust laws, according to a press release.

Charges in the suit allege that Google and Apple have agreed that Apple would keep out of the internet search business against Google, according to the release. It also claims Google shares its search profits with Apple and gives Apple preferential treatment for all Apple devices; annual multi-billion-dollar payments by Google to Apple not to compete in the search business; suppression of smaller competitors to keep them from the search sector; and acquiring competing companies.