Germany launches Google fair practice inquiry

A regulator in Germany is taking action against Google for what it says are practices by its global mapping service that could unfairly disadvantage competitors.

“The proceeding is to examine possible anti-competitive restrictions imposed by Google Maps Platform to the detriment of alternative map services providers,” said the Bundeskartellamt, the national competition regulatory agency in Germany.

Bringing the case before Google’s office in Hamburg and its parent company Alphabet, based in California, the German watchdog said it was based on new tougher guidelines introduced early last year in the form of Section 19a of the amended German Competition Act.

“As a company of paramount significance for competition across markets, Google is subject to stricter abuse control,” said Andreas Mundt, president of the Bundeskartellamt. “Google may be restricting the combination of its own map services with third-party map services.”

As an example, Mundt claimed the Google Street View function was not provided when Google maps data was embedded into a third-party website, to show the precise location of shops, hotels and the like.

Mundt added that the inquiry would determine “whether this practice could allow Google to further expand its position of power regarding certain map services. We will also look into the licensing terms and conditions for the use of Google’s map services in vehicles.”

The Google inquiry will interview employees of both the firm and its competitors, though the Bundeskartellamt gave no timeline for its proceedings.

Other big tech firms on the Bundeskartellamt’s radar include Amazon, Apple, and Meta/Facebook, which it said have either faced or are due to face similar inquiries.