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Google has blocked in its in-car software rivals, claims German watchdog

Bundling everything together means others don't get a look-in, says competition body

Google's bundle-or-nothing offer to car manufacturers for their in-car infotainment systems is a potentially anti-competitive move, Germany's market watchdog has said.

The Bundeskartellamt has sent the search giant a statement of objections claiming alternative map services providers could feel the pain as Google won't allow third-party makers access to its services. According to the competition authority, its mapping rivals are forbidden from using Google location data, its search function or Google Street View. The watchdog added that the Alphabet company's vertical dominance of the mobile software market could mean rivals lose out.

The agency said in its "preliminary assessment" that the fact that Google also subjects car manufacturers to "very strict terms of use" could restrict competition even further.

Google has previously gotten into hot water for bundling, with the EU taking it to task in 2018 for asking Android smartphone makers to bundle Google mobile apps and services on their handsets by default. The European Commission fined Google €4.34 billion at the time for using Android to strengthen its search monopoly, claiming Google's licensing conditions made it "impossible for manufacturers to pre-install some apps but not others."

The German competition agency's boss, Andreas Mundt, said of the latest action: "In particular, we take a critical view of Google offering its services for infotainment systems as a bundle only, as this reduces its competitors' chances to sell their competing services as individual services."

The Bundeskartellamt, aka the FCO (Federal Cartel Office), is making the move under Section 19a GWB, the main function of which is to allow Germany's competition authority to intervene early in sectors where individual companies might have a "gatekeeper" function and thus prevent potential anti-competitive effects.

A Google spokesperson told The Register: "There is enormous competition in the connected car space. Thousands of applications are compatible with Android Automotive and car makers have an enormous range of options to provide information and entertainment options in vehicles. Even if automakers choose Android Automotive OS, they aren't required to use Google Automotive Services for their cars. We will continue to engage constructively with the FCO to resolve their concerns." ®

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