German Regulator Probes Google Maps Under New Rules

Germany’s antitrust regulator opens new probe into Google Maps terms, using new powers already applied in two previous cases against tech giant

Germany’s antitrust regulator has opened an investigation into Google’s terms for its Maps service, in the latest probe opened under new rules that allow it to more easily target the biggest digital giants.

The Federal Cartel Office said on Tuesday it had opened the formal probe after initial findings suggested the company was limiting options for combining its tools with maps from rivals.

“We have information to suggest that Google may be restricting the combination of its own map services with third-party map services,” said FCO head Andreas Mundt.

google‘Position of power’

Examples could include organisations wanting to embed Google Maps location data, map search or Google Street View into maps provided by third parties.

“Among other aspects, we will now examine whether this practice could allow Google to further expand its position of power regarding certain map services,” Mundt said.

He added that the agency would look into the licensing terms for the use of the mapping platform in vehicles.

The FCO said it would interview Google Maps customers competitors as part of the probe.

Expanded authority

Google said developers and businesses choose Google Maps Platform because it provides “helpful, high-quality information” and that many choose to use other mapping services as well.

“We always cooperate with regulators and are glad to answer any questions they may have about our business,” the company stated.

The FCO received new powers in January 2021 lowering the bar for investigations into companies with “paramount significance for competition across markets”, and in December issued a finding that this applied to Google.

It was the first decision of its kind under the new law, and since then the FCO has used the designation to open probes into Google’s News Showcase licensing practices and its terms for data processing.

‘Paramount significance’

Facebook parent Meta received the same designation as Google last month, and the FCO has been testing the market power of Amazon since May 2021.

The agency is still considering whether the rule applies to Apple, but in the meantime began a probe into Apple’s App Tracking Transparency (ATT) rules last week, saying they “can possibly” be classified as meeting the definition.

The EU’s Digital Markets Act (DMA), set to come into force early next year, similarly targets digital “gatekeeper” firms.