German trains

GERMANY: The Federal Monopolies Commission has reached a preliminary conclusion that Deutsche Bahn has committed ‘an abuse of market power’ in relation to digital mobility platforms designed to offer passengers integrated route planning and ticket purchasing. Announcing this on April 20, the Commission said that it had issued DB with a warning for possible obstruction of mobility platforms.

In an investigation that began in 2019 the Commission has found that some of DB’s practices and contractual clauses are anti-competitive. For example, forecast data about delays, cancelled trains, routing or platform changes, all of which are needed for travel planning across different modes, are not made available to third-party mobility platforms.

Other restrictions unearthed by the Commission include advertising bans, ‘vertical price specifications’ and bans on discounted fares as well as possible discrimination relating to the level of commission for ticket sales.

Berlin-Südkreuz bus and station (Photo: Deutsche Bahn/Christian Bedeschinski)

The Commission also noted that DB played a dual role. It had its own mobility platform thanks to its site and its DB Navigator app, but it also combined its own fare offers across modes and handled ticket sales for third parties. Its market-leading position meant that it had the opportunity to control the use of rail services in the offers of third parties.

The findings also indicate that the interests of other transport operators are affected. Mobility platforms can be a significant opportunity to win travel business for smaller undertakings, but if passengers are increasingly directed to DB’s channels, alternative operators will reach fewer customers, the Commission said.

Monopolies Commission President Andreas Mundt pointed out that DB ‘is vertically integrated from network operations to ticket sales’ and is ‘the dominant rail transport company in Germany. DB is therefore subject to anti-trust abuse control and has special obligations towards third parties such as mobility service providers.’


DB and other mobility platform providers now have the opportunity to respond to the Commission’s findings.

DB told Railway Gazette International that it had received the draft findings and was ‘reviewing them from a legal perspective’. It had ‘co-operated extensively’ with the Commission since the start of the proceedings in 2019 and said that the findings ‘deal with new issues relating to online sales, for which there has so far been a lack of established case law and official practice’.

AllRail, the alliance of new entrants in the European rail market, said that the Commission’s preliminary conclusion proved that ‘in addition to limiting modal shift to rail, such anti-competitive behaviour by dominant gatekeepers also undermines multi-modal solutions that have the potential to considerably reduce private car use.’

AllRail Secretary-General Nick Brooks said that ‘there is clearly anti-competitive behaviour in data provision. Dominant gatekeepers already exist ― and DB seems to be one of them. Now there is an urgent case for swift regulatory intervention to safeguard against market distortion through the provision, control and release of data.’

Pointing out that DB ‘is the largest transport operator in the EU’s largest member state’, AllRail asserted that the findings had ‘huge implications’; Europe must seize the moment and enable digital alternatives to the private car ― both for national and cross-border public transport.’