German competition authority strengthens authority over Meta – EURACTIV.com

Stricter antitrust measures may be taken against US giant Meta, the German Federal Cartel Office announced Wednesday (May 4) after similar action was taken against Google. Meanwhile, Germany is pushing for stricter European competition rules.

Like Google’s parent company, Alphabet Inc, Meta is now also a “crucial for market competition”noted on Wednesday the Bundeskartellamt, the federal agency for fighting German cartels.

With this announcement, the competition authority can now take action against Meta under Article 19a of the Restriction of Competition Act (GWB) and prohibit practices that threaten competition.

When applying this section, one must first “determining whether a group should be subject to comprehensive abuse control. Certain prohibition standards can then be activated in a second step. However, separate procedures must be started for this.a spokesman for the Bundeskartellamt told EURACTIV.

Andreas Mundt, chairman of the Bundeskartellamt, said in a statement that: “Our discovery allows us to act much more effectively against any competitive infringement than we have been able to do with the tools we had until now. †

The provision in its current form came into effect in January 2021. A year later, the German competition authority ruled for the first time that Alphabet Inc. and its subsidiary Google fell within its scope.

A similar decision could also be taken against Amazon and Apple, as proceedings against the two tech giants are currently pending with the German competition authority. A decision on whether these two companies will “primary importance for market competition” is expected soon, the organization’s spokesperson added.

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Meta has a “Cross interest” because of its 3.5 billion users worldwide and because the company is a leading provider of social media advertising according to the competition authority. Meta also acquired 3D glasses and technology maker Oculus, now Meta Quest.

As early as 2019, the Bundeskartellamt banned Meta from combining user data from different sources due to competition concerns, but a decision on this dispute is still pending. The competition authority has also started proceedings against Meta because of the merger with Meta Quest.

However, the 2021 provision should speed up these kinds of proceedings. The decision is limited to five years after it has become legally binding. During this period, Meta is subject to a special abuse check by the Bundeskartellamt in accordance with 19a(2).

Meta waived her right to appeal the decision.

Tightening up EU competition rules

At the same time, Germany is also pushing for tightening of EU competition rules.

During a press conference of the Bundeskartellamt on Wednesday (May 4), Sven Giegold, the German State Secretary at the Ministry of Economy and Climate Protection, insisted that regulators should be able to “dismantle” companies for serious violations.

Giegold also said EU merger rules need to be updated and tightened, not least to prevent big companies from buying up smaller rivals. EU merger control and regulation needs to be reformed, added Mr Giegold.

In Germany, the federal government plans to give the Bundeskartellamt more powers in this regard, which could make the already strong national authority even more powerful.

It remains to be seen how the scope of the Bundeskartellamt will evolve in light of the Digital Markets Act (DMA), which will apply from 2023.

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