German Anti-trust Watchdog Initiates Proceedings Against Google Over Data Usage

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Germany's anti-trust watchdog, the Federal Cartel Office, on Tuesday began proceedings against Google Germany, Google Ireland and their parent company Alphabet Inc. (GOOGL,GOOG) on charges of exploitation of their market domination in handling data.

The investigation is being undertaken under a latest amendment to Germany's Act against Restraints of Competition or GWB, which came into effect from January this year. As per the 10th amendment to the law, German regulators can look into the matters of major digital companies.

Under the new law, if regulators have significant evidence that digital platforms have "paramount significance" cutting across markets, the Federal Cartel Office can restrict certain of the company's actions, if they are deemed as restricting competition.

In a statement, the cartel office said that it would first decide if the search engine fits the bill for "paramount significance". Next, the authorities will take a look at Google's data-processing terms to understand whether they promoted an anti-competitive practice.

The statement said that as Google has many digital services like YouTube, Google Maps and the Chrome browser, it has a supremacy over different markets. "Due to its established access to data relevant for competition, Google enjoys a strategic advantage. A key question in this context is whether consumers wishing to use Google's services have sufficient choice as to how Google will use their data." President, Cartel Office, Andreas Mundt said.

Commenting on the development, Google said people use its services because they are helpful, not because they are forced to do so or because they cannot find any alternatives.

"We give people easy control over how their information is used and we limit the use of personal information." Google spokesman Ralf Bremer said, adding that the company will fully cooperate with the inquiries.

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