The German national railway Deutsche Bahn (DB) is battling a litigation process against antitrust regulators in the country, Bundeskartellamt, which have recently concluded that DB’s practices constitute an abuse of dominant position by imposing market restrictions, withholding crucial data and imposing unsustainably low commissions on independent distribution channels.
1. Deutsche Bahn‘s dominant position
In a nutshell, DB is fighting against the antitrust authority’s preliminary conclusions that it unfairly refuses to share information or pass on discounts to rival websites. The state-owned railway said that full compliance with the Bundeskartellamt “would be unlawful” adding that the company only relies on its own distribution “for reasons of efficiency.”
“Unlike other train carriers across Europe, Deutsche Bahn doesn’t share real-time data with competitors and partners,” a Trainline spokesperson said quoted by POLITICO. “By blocking access to it Deutsche Bahn is standing in the way of consumers having the best possible experience, no matter where they book their ticket.”
Eu travel tech said that DB’s practices illustrate a general trend of dominant transport operators seeking to undermine independent distribution of their services in an effort to limit consumer transparency, competition and innovation.
eu travel tech supports the Bundeskartellamt’s view that DB’s commercial choice to withhold crucial real-time travel data, to burden mobility platforms with marketing restrictions (such as brand-bidding restrictions) and to provide unsustainably low commissions to third parties is untenable.stated eu travel tech in a press release.
2. EU’s upcoming proposal
With the European Commission’s upcoming proposal on Multimodal Digital Mobility Services (MDMS) a level-playing field is to be expected for all players in the transport market. The MDMS will help make it easier for consumers to book journeys including different modes of transport. However, access to data will be essential to make this initiative a reality.
“We are glad to observe the Bundeskartellamt calling out important challenges for the independent distribution of rail services. eu travel tech considers this decision as a useful blueprint for the coming European initiative on multimodal distribution,” said Emmanuel Mounier, Secretary-General of eu travel tech.