Google’s in-car tech sales face German antitrust crackdown

Google Automotive Services offers carmakers a package that combines services including Google Maps, the Google Play app store and the Google voice ass
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This photo provided by General Motors shows its latest infotainment system that is based on Google’s Android Automotive. (AP)
This photo provided by General Motors shows its latest infotainment system that is based on Google’s Android Automotive.

Alphabet Inc.’s Google risks a German ban on the way it bundles together navigation and other services to potentially thwart competition for in-car technology.

The Federal Cartel Office, the nation’s antitrust watchdog, intends to order Google to drop the provisions, the agency said in a statement on Wednesday.

Google said that there’s “enormous competition in the connected car space" and that thousands of applications are compatible with Android Automotive. The company will continue to engage constructively with the regulator to resolve their concerns, it said.

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Google Automotive Services offers carmakers a package that combines services including Google Maps, the Google Play app store and the Google voice assistant. The system allows drivers voice-based control of their vehicle as well as messaging and telephoning. Bundling the services may obstruct competition by enabling Google to expand its power to markets that aren’t yet dominated by one player, the agency said.

Andreas Mundt, the head of the cartel office, is using the probe to flex powers his office was given two years ago to address crucial issues related to the digital economy and Big Tech, an area he describes as a “top priority" for his agency.

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Google may also be in breach of antitrust rules by sharing advertising proceeds with carmakers that agree to only install Google voice assistant, or by terms that force them to set Google’s services as the default.

“Such default settings bear the risk that alternative services will hardly be noticed and accordingly little used," the Cartel Office said. “Google has already successfully used such practices with mobile devices to expand or secure its market position."

The agency is also scrutinising the terms for Google Maps and may strike down rules that ban users from combining the Google map services with those of others as they make it more difficult for service providers to develop powerful alternatives to Google Maps, it said.

First Published Date: 21 Jun 2023, 16:12 PM IST
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