The Bundeskartellamt has come to the preliminary conclusion that certain practices and contractual clauses used by Deutsche Bahn (DB) in relation to mobility platforms constitute an abuse of market power.

DB is a railway company based in Berlin/Germany. Mobility platforms mainly offer online solutions for integrated route planning for which rail transport plays an important role. DB's contractual restrictions addressed in the proceeding cover bans on advertising, price specifications for passenger tickets, far-reaching bans on discounts and possible discrimination against some mobility platforms with regard to the commission rate paid for ticket sales.

In order to comprehend the solemnity of the file, it is necessary to consider that any mobility services simply cannot be provided without involving DB. According to the Bundeskartellamt, mobility platforms are, for example, entitled to access train traffic data, such as information on delays or cancellations. Otherwise, their business models cannot work.

  1. The company is a powerful mobility platform with its online platform and its app DB Navigator. In addition to selling its own tickets, DB itself offers combinations of various modes of transport and also sells third-party tickets for more than fifty associations of transport companies.
  2. As the leading rail transport company, DB has the possibility to use its key role to control the use of rail transport in third-party offers.

The authority listed its findings regarding the behaviour of the DB as follows:

  • DB prohibits its contractual partners from advertising their full range of services in search engines, app stores and social networks, which is from using terms that are specific to DB, thus preventing them from promoting their offers.
  • According to the DB, when selling train tickets, DB’s online partners must not offer discount campaigns, bonus points or cashback programmes while DB itself uses these means to advertise its own offers.

The Authority found that mobility platforms for smaller and lesser-known railway companies in Germany increase access for transport services and will be a crucial channel for customer acquisition. However, according to the Bundeskartellamt, if passengers are permanently diverted to DB channels, alternative transport undertakings will be able to reach minimal customers, which will further strengthen DB's dominant market power in transport markets. At this stage, the Bundeskartellamt will make its final decision after consulting the DB and mobility platforms on the findings.

(Bundeskartellamt - 20.04.2022)




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