Digital Markets Act — FRAND access to ranking, request, click and view data

The Digi­tal Mar­kets Act has been in force for a few months. It is the­r­e­fo­re worth taking a first look at indi­vi­du­al pro­vi­si­ons that will occu­py us for some time to come. Today, we are deal­ing with a sec­tor-spe­ci­fic pro­vi­si­on on access to data. We are tal­king about Art. 6 para. 11 DMA, which I am pre­sen­ting here in excerp­ts from the Ger­man ver­si­on of the regulation:

The gate­kee­per shall pro­vi­de to any third-par­ty under­ta­king pro­vi­ding online search engi­nes, at its request, with access on fair, reasonable and non-dis­cri­mi­na­to­ry terms to ran­king, query, click and view data in rela­ti­on to free and paid search gene­ra­ted by end users on its online search engi­nes. Any such query, click and view data that con­sti­tu­tes per­so­nal data shall be anonymised.

Art. 6 Abs. 11 DMA


The regu­la­ti­on con­sti­tu­tes sec­tor-spe­ci­fic data access in that it ori­gi­nal­ly grants other com­pa­nies the right to request access to data from the gate­kee­per. The back­ground to this is the con­sidera­ble value attri­bu­ted to data tre­asu­res when they are exploi­ted in con­nec­tion with online search engi­nes. Thus, with each search query, a search engi­ne recei­ves fur­ther infor­ma­ti­on that it can coll­ect, store and aggre­ga­te. This in turn gives it com­pe­ti­ti­ve advan­ta­ges that limit its contestability.

Reci­tal 61 DMA is clear on this by sug­gest­ing that gate­kee­pers should be requi­red to pro­vi­de other com­pa­nies pro­vi­ding such ser­vices with access on fair, reasonable and non-dis­cri­mi­na­to­ry terms to such ran­king, query, click and view data coll­ec­ted in rela­ti­on to unpaid and paid results of con­su­mer search queries, so that such third par­ty com­pa­nies can opti­mi­se their ser­vices and attack the posi­ti­on of the rele­vant cen­tral plat­form ser­vices. In doing so, the gate­kee­per should ensu­re the pro­tec­tion of per­so­nal data, thus also at its ope­ra­tio­nal risk. In this respect, it is the­r­e­fo­re a duty to process.


The pro­vi­si­on is limi­t­ed to data access in con­nec­tion with repre­sen­ta­ti­ons in the search engi­ne. Thus, it also ser­ves to imple­ment fair­ness and con­te­st­a­bi­li­ty with regard to this ser­vice, but stands inde­pendent­ly along­side the pro­hi­bi­ti­on of self-pre­fe­rence in ran­king.

The object of access is ran­king, query, click and view data in rela­ti­on to unpaid and paid search results gene­ra­ted by end users via its online search engi­nes. This the­r­e­fo­re means that, on the one hand, the third par­ty com­pa­ny can demand very exten­si­ve access to the data. On the other hand, the object of access is also limi­t­ed in such a way that not every data can be reques­ted, but only data that (1.) has a refe­rence to search results and that (2.) is gene­ra­ted by end users via (3.) the gate­kee­per’s online search engi­ne. Thus, the pro­vi­si­on also attacks the com­pe­ti­ti­ve advan­ta­ge that the gate­kee­per com­pa­ny recei­ves through this data resour­ce. But: the cla­im also only extends as far as ran­king, query, click or view data is con­cer­ned. Bey­ond that, the gate­kee­per can deny access.

Third-par­ty com­pa­nies that pro­vi­de online search engi­nes are entit­led to access. This does not neces­s­a­ri­ly have to be a sur­face search engi­ne such as Goog­le or its direct com­pe­ti­tors. The search func­tion on a web­site alo­ne should be suf­fi­ci­ent to be con­side­red a com­pe­ti­tor here. Ano­ther argu­ment against a rest­ric­ti­ve inter­pre­ta­ti­on is the pur­po­se of con­te­st­a­bi­li­ty and that, in fact, any web­site with a search func­tion may be capa­ble of deve­lo­ping in com­pe­ti­ti­on in such a way that it can dis­pu­te the signi­fi­can­ce of a gate­kee­per’s online search engine.

The con­di­ti­ons of access are par­ti­cu­lar­ly intri­guing. In this con­text, the pro­vi­si­on uses the FRAND for­mu­la in Art. 6 (11) p. 1 DMA, which is alre­a­dy fami­li­ar from the con­text of com­pul­so­ry licen­ces and stan­dard-essen­ti­al patents. The pro­tec­ti­ve pur­po­se of the pro­vi­si­on the­r­e­fo­re also speaks for a com­pe­ti­ti­ve inter­pre­ta­ti­on of the indi­vi­du­al FRAND ele­ments. This gains par­ti­cu­lar importance in the ques­ti­on of ade­quacy or reason­ab­leness. For only here, for exam­p­le, is the scope of the obli­ga­ti­on to grant access to be exami­ned. The gate­kee­per can only invo­ke unre­ason­ab­leness of access to a very limi­t­ed ext­ent. This is even more the case with the DMA, becau­se first­ly, this regu­la­ti­on is inten­ded to ensu­re con­te­st­a­bi­li­ty, so it is pre­cis­e­ly the com­pe­ti­ti­ve exis­tence of the gate­kee­per that plays only a sub­or­di­na­te role, and second­ly, accor­ding to Art. 9 and 10 DMA, the­re are pos­si­bi­li­ties for the gate­kee­per to be reli­e­ved of the indi­vi­du­al obli­ga­ti­ons. The FRAND obli­ga­ti­on does not impo­se a nego­tia­ting dia­lo­gue bet­ween the gate­kee­per and the access ten­ant, but appli­es direct­ly. The gate­kee­per must the­r­e­fo­re make a FRAND-com­pli­ant offer of access its­elf and is other­wi­se in breach of the provision.

Inso­far as the query, click and view data in the search engi­ne is per­so­nal data, the gate­kee­per must anony­mi­se it. This also cla­ri­fies that the access cla­im is wit­hout pre­ju­di­ce to data pro­tec­tion regu­la­ti­ons. The lat­ter are gene­ral­ly dis­cus­sed in the con­text of anti­trust data access claims as a fac­tu­al objec­tion for its deni­al. The anony­mi­sa­ti­on obli­ga­ti­on inva­li­da­tes this objection.

About the author

Porträtbild von Dr. Sebastian Louven

Dr. Sebastian Louven

I have been an independent lawyer since 2016 and advise mainly on antitrust law and telecommunications law. Since 2022 I am a specialist lawyer for international business law.

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