Bundeskartellamt, the German Federal Cartel Office, has initiated an administrative proceeding against Deutsche Bahn AG, concerning the sale of tickets of via so-called mobility platforms. The procedure is made following allegations on DB’s restrictive practices and policies relating to its co-operation with independent third-party digital ticketing platforms.
“Innovative, modern mobility concepts and the online sale of travel tickets naturally also rely on rail travel. Digital platforms via which travellers can book all means of transport to their destination from a single source will therefore be an important market in the future. These providers rely on Deutsche Bahn AG for information. According to the information currently available, mobility platforms do not, for example, receive real-time information about departures and delays. Deutsche Bahn AG is also said to set out extensive requirements for online marketing and granting rebates. We are following up these allegations and will examine whether Deutsche Bahn AG is unlawfully restricting the visibility and attractiveness of mobility platforms for consumers,” Andreas Mundt, President of the Bundeskartellamt, said.
Travellers can search travel information on mobility platforms either online or via apps, compare means of transport and book tickets. Some mobility platforms even offer to organise and book a complete voyage with different means of transport.
One question in the focus of the Office‘s investigation is whether Deutsche Bahn imposes restrictions on mobility platforms in respect of advertising in app stores, search engines and social networks. The authority is also examining indications of conditions imposed by DB according to which platforms cannot grant discount on DB tickets. Another aim of the inquiry is to clarify to what extent mobility platforms must have access to current departure and delay data in order to be able to offer new mobility concepts such as end-to-end intermodal mobility chains. In the course of its investigations the Bundeskartellamt will question various market participants verbally and in writing in the coming weeks.
The Alliance of Passenger Rail New Entrants in Europe, AllRail, has welcomed this investigation. “DB is the dominant player in Germany both on the tracks and in rail ticket sales. It clearly wants to maintain the Status Quo by mitigating the threat of competition through limiting the attractiveness of innovative, customer-centric mobility platforms. Rail will struggle to become more competitive with less sustainable modes of transport if its accessibility is restricted,” Vice President Tony Berkeley said.
By imposing such conditions on its sales partners, DB is proactively limiting their ability to grow and even threatening their very existence. All of which will lead to reduced choice for consumers as well as making it more difficult for new railway operators to enter the market – they will suffer from not being able to sell their tickets through these innovative third parties, AllRail commented.