German antitrust regulator taking closer look at Google

Germany's antitrust enforcer on Wednesday labeled Google a company of "paramount significance across markets," allowing it to further scrutinize the company for what it calls anti-competitive practices.

The Federal Cartel Office, Germany's competition regulator, noted in a press release that the new designation allows it to "take action against specific anti-competitive practices against Google."

"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," said Andreas Mundt, president of the Federal Cartel Office, in a statement. "This is a very important first step."

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The office said Google has an influence over other companies because it holds the keys to the digital ecosystem with its search engine, video platform Youtube, Android phones and the Play Store. The tech company also has an unfair advantage because of its unique access to data, the office said.

Google has decided not to appeal the designation, according to the press release, but that does not mean an admission of acceptance or guilt on the new designation. 

A Google spokesperson told The Hill that consumers of their service use their products and services and "expect that we operate a responsible business."
 
"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 FCO to find solutions that enable people and businesses in Germany to continue to use our products," the spokesperson said.

The Federal Cartel Office is also investigating other Big Tech companies, including Amazon, Apple and Meta, formerly known as Facebook, for similar antitrust reasons.

Europe has long paved the way for antitrust regulation among Big Tech.

In December, the European Union parliament approved the text for the Digital Markets Act, which reins in Big Tech by restricting them from hoarding data about businesses, allowing smaller companies to interact with customers outside of the "gatekeepers" platform and generally giving third parties more power in the digital market.

The U.S. took steps to rein in Google when the Department of Justice filed an antitrust lawsuit in 2020 against the tech company, charging it with illegally maintaining a monopoly through its search engine.

Google is also facing a lawsuit from 17 states, led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. An amended complaint from November 2021 alleges Google "engages in unlawful monopoly conduct, secretly manipulating the largest auction market in the world to the detriment of competition, publishers, advertisers, and consumers.”

Updated: 3:26 p.m.