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Google and owner Alphabet will come under increased scrutiny for anti-competitive behavior, the German competition regulator says. The authority last year gained new powers to supervise large internet companies.
Germany's Federal Cartel Office on Wednesday paved the way for action to curb any potentially anti-competitive actions by Google and its owner, Alphabet, through new powers it has gained under an amendment of the German Competition Act.
"Since January 2021, we have a new instrument for supervising large digital corporations," said Andreas Mundt, who heads the office. "After less than a year, we have now taken the first formal decision on the basis of this regulation and established that Google has a preeminent cross-market significance."
"This is a very important step since based on this decision the cartel office can now take action against specific anti-competitive practices by Google," he added.
The amendment to the Competition Act allows the cartel office to intervene earlier if companies are deemed to have this "preeminent cross-market significance" — the change was designed to give the authority more teeth against international internet giants. Mundt said the cartel office was also carrying out probes into other US tech giants, such as Amazon and Meta, formerly Facebook.
Mundt said that the authority was already looking at the way personal data was processed by Google and at its Google News Showcase. The latter product allows publishers to make journalistic content more prominent online.
In a statement on its website, the German Federal Cartel Office said the services offered by Google had an "infrastructure character," in that they affected the market access of other companies to its users. This allowed it to establish rules and the framework for other companies, giving it a "great significance" for their business activities.
Big tech companies like Google have been coming under growing scrutiny around the world amid concern about their dominant market positions, as well as their tax practices.
In November, Google lost an appeal at the European Union's second-highest court against a €2.4 billion ($2.8 billion) fine imposed by the bloc for abusing its search engine dominance.
tj/msh (Reuters, AFP)