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    Google is stonewalling before the Federal Court of Justice regarding data transfer


    Are internals facing competition?
    Google is stonewalling before the Federal Court of Justice regarding data transfer

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    Google is a giant in the tech space. The Federal Cartel Office sees a dominant market position and wants to give internals to competitors, which the group rejects. The project should therefore be shot down before the Federal Court of Justice.

    The technology giant Google is fighting at the Federal Court of Justice (BGH) to protect possible trade and business secrets that the Federal Cartel Office wants to disclose to two competitors. The authority wants to find out whether Google is exploiting its market power in connection with infotainment systems for vehicles. To this end, she would like to inform the map specialist TomTom and the language assistant provider Cerence about her previous investigations and ask for an assessment of the competition concerns.

    Competitors know best about the market, argued the representative of the cartel office in Karlsruhe. For the Google lawyer, however, the approach goes too far. She said contract details don't have to be quoted verbatim – you could also ask a question about whether discounts of 10, 20 or 30 percent would have a pull effect. Two judges from the Cartel Senate questioned whether the authority was going too far – especially if the allegations ultimately prove untenable.

    The presiding judge Wolfgang Kirchhoff made it clear that the office's interest in clarifying the matter had to be weighed against the company's interest in secrecy. This probably won't happen across the board, but rather step by step. The Senate must clarify how much leeway Germany's top competition watchdogs have. It is unclear when he will announce a decision.

    Product bundles and presentation specifications

    Specifically, the cartel office wants to prohibit the group from engaging in “various anti-competitive behaviors” at its Google Automotive Services (GAS). It's a product bundle consisting of the Google Maps map service, a version of the Google Play app store and the Google Assistant voice assistant. Car manufacturers such as Volvo, Ford, Renault, Nissan and Polestar use GAS. German manufacturers such as BMW, Mercedes, Audi and VW are not included.

    According to the information, Google generally only offers the services to manufacturers together and, in the opinion of the Cartel Office, sets further requirements for the presentation of the services in the infotainment system of cars so that they are used preferentially. It warned Google Germany and its parent company Alphabet in June and informed them about the competition concerns. According to the Federal Court of Justice, Google submitted suggestions for solutions and lodged a complaint against the disclosure of individual, specific text passages.

    Secrets and fundamentals

    As Judge Kirchhoff said, Google had already enforced redactions. But the company wants to make more passages unrecognizable. “We are only discussing individual words and partial sentences here,” said the lawyer. The representative of the Cartel Office, on the other hand, saw the matter more fundamentally: For the first time there will be a decision by the highest court – that is also important for other cases. He advocated not making the requirements too complex at this stage of his agency's investigation.

    The Federal Court of Justice must now check whether the information that Google wants to be blacked out constitutes operational and business secrets and how much clarification can be expected from being passed on to the competition. Before getting into the details, Kirchhoff excluded the public from the negotiation.

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