On behalf of the team

After commencing investigations against Facebook, Inc. in January 2021, the Bundeskartellamt reported in press releases on 18 May and 25 May 2021 that it had initiated proceedings against Amazon, Inc. and Google, Inc., respectively, based on the new rules for large digital companies.[1]

The 10th amendment to the German Competition Act (GWB Digitalisation Act) came into force in January 2021. A key new provision set forth in Section 19a GWB enables the authority to intervene earlier and more effectively, in particular against the practices of large digital companies. In a two-step procedure, the Bundeskartellamt can prohibit companies which are of paramount significance for competition across markets from engaging in anti-competitive practices.

In the case against Amazon, the Bundeskartellamt stated that they were examining whether Amazon was of such paramount significance. An ecosystem which extends across various markets and thus constitutes an almost unchallengeable position of economic power is particularly characteristic in this respect. According to the president of the Bundeskartellamt, this could apply to Amazon with its online marketplaces and many others, above all digital offers.

Similar proceedings have been initiated against Google Germany GmbH, Hamburg, Google Ireland Ltd., Dublin, Ireland, and Alphabet Inc., Mountain View, USA. Due to the large number of digital services offered by Google, such as the Google search engine, YouTube, Google Maps, the Android operating system or the Chrome browser, the company could be considered to be of paramount significance for competition across markets. A second set of proceedings will undertake an in-depth analysis of Google’s data processing terms, as Google’s business model relies to a very large extent on processing data relating to its users. The main question is whether users have sufficient choice as to how Google will use their data.

On 21 June 2021, the Bundeskartellamt also initiated such an inquiry into Apple to assess whether Apple’s new privacy policy, its App Store rules, and the pre-installation of its apps on iPhones require intervention. The assessment will examine the extensive integration of the

[1] Proceedings against Amazon based on new rules for large digital companies (Section 19a GWB); Proceeding against Google based on new rules for large digital players (Section 19a GWB) – Bundeskartellamt examines Google’s significance for competition across markets and its data processing terms; Apple faces German antitrust probe under country’s new tech rules.