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Google Accused of Violating Germany’s Digital-Competition Law

Germany’s competition regulator said Google should give its users more control over how and whether it mingles data from its various services, like its search engine and YouTube, part of a fresh wave of regulatory enforcement in Europe for big tech companies. 

The country’s Federal Cartel Office said Wednesday that its preliminary conclusions found Google is violating a new German digital-competition law passed in 2021, and that it expects to order the company to give users more specific and clear control over the extent to which their data is combined from various services.

The regulator says it will now seek responses from Google to its preliminary assessment, which could change before it issues a final decision later this year. 

Google, owned by

Alphabet Inc.,

GOOG 2.21%

said it would “continue to engage constructively” with the German regulator to resolve its concerns. 

Germany’s action, while taken nationally under a German law aimed at very large tech companies, is a sign of things to come for big tech companies in the European Union. The bloc is currently implementing its own digital-competition law, called the Digital Markets Act, which includes an array of similar requirements for the biggest tech companies operating in Europe, as defined in part by revenue, number of users and market capitalization. Those companies, dubbed gatekeepers, are expected to include Alphabet.,

Amazon.com Inc.,

Apple Inc.,

Meta Platforms Inc.

and others. Its provisions will be enforced beginning in 2024.

The EU’s law includes some similar provisions to the German one, aimed at helping smaller companies compete with digital behemoths. One of them would, somewhat like the German law, require large tech companies to silo data from their different core services unless they have user authorization to combine their data.

With Wednesday’s allegations, Germany is flexing its muscles under its national law while the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, is still in talks with big tech companies about how it plans to enforce its DMA. Germany has also previously opened investigations under its new law into several companies, including Amazon and Meta Platforms Inc. 

Amazon didn’t immediately comment and Meta declined to comment. Amazon has previously said it is cooperating with the German competition regulator. 

The coexistence of the two laws raises the specter of overlapping and potentially conflicting enforcement priorities between Germany and the EU—a headache for tech companies.

On Wednesday, Germany’s Cartel Office said that its law goes further than the DMA in how it requires options for users to select how a company shares their data internally, suggesting that it could eventually order a different set of options for users in Germany than for the EU as a whole. 

The European Commission didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. 

Write to Sam Schechner at [email protected]

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