Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cabinet on Wednesday approved draft digital antitrust legislation that will give German authorities more tools to combat market abuse by large tech companies.
The law, which has yet to be approved by parliament, would expand the powers of the Federal Cartel Office to regulate companies that dominate the Internet economy. The proposed rules would allow the German antitrust regulator to step in if marketplace platforms use the data they collect from smaller businesses through their site to undercut competitors.
“It’ll help many middle-sized companies, but above all benefit millions of consumers by helping them gauge digital offers better and take decisions without being influenced,” Economy Minister Peter Altmaier said at a press conference on Wednesday.
The EU is separately working on similar ways to extend oversight for large Internet platforms, including legislation on so-called “gatekeeper” platforms that may control how smaller businesses can reach customers. Antitrust regulators are also debating how to handle Internet sites that may favor their own services over rivals, a frequent complaint from app developers, online retailers and search services about companies such as Amazon, Apple and Google.
“The big platforms use their exclusive positions to keep competition at arms length,” said Matthias Heider, deputy chairman of the economic committee in the lower house of parliament. “We cannot wait to take action against this market abuse by digital platforms.”
In a case that may have prompted the draft law, Berlin-based home rental platform HomeToGo filed a complaint in 2019 against Google with the European Commission for re-routing traffic from competitors to their own travel offering. It’s still unclear whether the Commission will open a case to investigate Google, a person familiar with the situation said.
— With assistance by Aoife White, and Birgit Jennen
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