Google Maps in the sights of the German antitrust regulator

The German Federal Cartel Office, the Bundeskartellamt, announced on June 21 the opening of an investigation in order to uncover possible practices competing with Google Maps. This is not the first time that the regulator across the Rhine has embarked on such an investigation into a Google service.

What is Google Maps accused of?

According to the Office, the first findings made by the Mountain View firm limit the options for using alternative map providers when developers or companies seek to combine their offers with Google Maps. The regulator is also reviewing licensing terms for using Google’s map services in vehicles.

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A smartphone open on Google Maps.

Regulators are concerned that Google is limiting the ability to integrate location data from Google Maps, Street View or other providers’ map search function. Photography: Mika Baumeister / Unsplash

We have withheld information suggesting that Google may limit the combination of its own map services with third-party map services, for example when it comes to integrating location data from Google Maps, the search function or Google Street View in maps not provided by Google “, explains Andreas Mundt, President of the Bundeskartellamt.

We will now consider whether this practice may allow Google to further extend its position of power over certain mapping services. “, he continues. Contacted by the media Tech Cruncha Google spokesperson spoke about this case, recalling that, according to him, users have the choice to use any map service, and do not hesitate to do so:

“Developers and businesses choose to use Google Maps Platform out of many options because they recognize that it provides useful, high-quality information to users. They are also free to use other mapping services besides Google Maps Platform – and many do. We always cooperate with regulators and are happy to answer any questions they may have about our business.”

Germany has strengthened its legislation to regulate GAFA

This investigation is part of a decision rendered last January, during which the Bundeskartellamt recognized the ” dominance of Google in all markets “. The German antitrust considers that the company has a position of economic strength such that competition no longer even has the expected regulatory effect. This decision lowers the threshold for intervention by the regulatory authority to resolve potential competition concerns.

It is therefore very likely that new investigations against Mountain View will emerge in our German neighbors. Moreover, the other members of the GAFA are also in the sights of the authorities. Last month, Meta was also designated as dominant in all markets, following the example of Amazon in May 2021. For the time being, Apple has not yet obtained this status, but the Bundeskartellamt is currently studying this possibility.

In Germany, two other investigations against Google are underway. One is interested in Google News Showcase, its service highlighting the content of media partners, while the other targets the processing of users’ personal data.

The European Union wants to be a pioneer in the regulation of big tech

More generally, the European Union is a pioneer in the regulation of technological giants. It has also agreed on the Digital Markets Act, a text which will make it possible to regulate much better what it describes as ” guardians i.e. the largest technology platforms that control access to digital markets for other companies.

Aiming to combat anti-competitive practices on the Old Continent, the law provides for exemplary sanctions against big tech found guilty, with fines of up to 10% of their annual turnover.

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