Germany’s competition watchdog is investigating possible abuses related to how Google operates its map products. It’s the latest procedure opened by the Federal Cartel Office (FCO) against Google — following an ongoing investigation into the tech giant’s press showcase licensing practices and data terms.
However, the Maps lawsuit is the first to be launched under stricter abuse controls since January – when regulators determined it met the threshold of a prior competition law reform aimed at “significant implications for competition across the market” “The digital giant.
The decision lowers the threshold for regulators to intervene to address potential competition issues. So, in practice, that means Google is likely to face more FCO lawsuits — lawsuits that have already been opened and could be closed more quickly than they would have been if special abuse controls didn’t apply.
FCO chairman Andreas Mundt commented in a statement about the Google Maps program. “We have information that Google may be restricting the integration of its own mapping services with third-party mapping services, such as when embedding Google Maps location data, search functionality, or Google Street View into maps not provided by Google.
“Among other things, we will now examine whether this approach will allow Google to further expand its power position in certain mapping services, as well as the licensing terms and conditions for the use of Google Maps services in vehicles.”
The FCO added that as part of the investigation, it will interview customers and competitors of the Google Maps platform.
A Google spokesperson said: “Developers and businesses choose to use the Google Maps platform among many options because they recognize that it provides users with useful, high-quality information. They are also free to use the Google Maps platform outside the Other mapping services — and many do. We always work with regulators and are happy to answer any questions they have about our business.”
Since the special abuse controls began to apply to its business, Google has made changes to how its news-licensed product works and made a number of other recommendations, apparently in an effort to resolve that FBI investigation.
As of this writing, the process is still not over. Back in January, the regulator said it would consult on Google’s proposed changes and continue to oversee the company’s negotiations with publishers on licensing terms. The new reality facing Google in Germany is a surveillance system that is more sensitive to competition issues.
Last month, the FCO also concluded that Facebook’s parent company, Meta, also falls within the scope of the ex-ante regime – meaning it too faces additional scrutiny over how it operates in the marketplace.
The FCO is conducting a process to determine whether iPhone maker Apple should also be designated as the agency. However, earlier this month, regulators announced an investigation into Apple’s app privacy framework, saying its conduct was “likely” to be classified as meeting the applicable threshold of the special abuse regime, so the FCO looks keen to avoid the A waste of time in terms of being able to use the initiative.
Germany’s competition watchdog has also been testing Amazon’s market power since May 2021 to make the same judgment. As a result, the e-commerce giant may soon also face increased attention to its German business.
Earlier this year, EU lawmakers agreed to a major ex-ante update to competition rules that will come into force early next year – bringing about a new regime of pre-operational rules that will apply to technology that fits the definition of an internet “gatekeeper” giant. The EU’s Digital Markets Act provides support for imposing a punitive regime on businesses that do not comply.
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