April 19, 2024

Australia’s competition regulator, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), has sent a notice for new competition laws to address the country’s speedy expansion of digital platforms.

This is evident in its latest Digital Platform Services Inquiry report, which expressed concerns about the growing influence of these platforms, including Google, Meta, Apple, and Microsoft.

It also highlighted the risks lurking with offensive data collection and practices that could limit consumer choices.

Digital Platform Expansion Laws Required

To address the problem, ACCC Chair Gina Cass-Gottlieb outlined proposed reforms to prevent anti-competitive acts by the select digital platforms. Among the measures stated were consumer protections and special service codes.

These measures are necessary to handle issues like product bundling pre-installation and default settings that could limit the choices available to customers.

While the ACCC did not make specific findings of the anti-competitive Act, it emphasized the need for adaptable competition laws to address challenges posed by digital platforms with significant market power.

Meanwhile, the regulator also highlighted concerns about data collection practices, noting that expanded platforms have greater access to consumer data, often needing clear boundaries on its use.

The ACCC proposed new mandatory obligations on digital platforms in response to these issues.

These include measures to combat scams, harmful apps, and fake reviews, with requirements for notice and action. They also involve enhanced verification processes for business users and reviews.

Notably, the five mentioned digital platforms have not provided an immediate response to Reuters’ request for comment on the ACCC’s proposals.

Importantly, the ACCC’s call for new competition laws reflects the regulator’s commitment to addressing the challenges posed by the evolving landscape of digital platforms in Australia.

This initiative is part of a broader five-year inquiry into the digital platform services sector, signalling a comprehensive effort to ensure fair competition and consumer protection in the digital space.

Previous Offerings from the ACCC

Aside from these updates, the ACCC had committed to some tech firms earlier this year. A notable example is Fred IT Group, a tech company that received interim authorization from the board.

This authorization allowed the company to create one or more contracts that involved MediSecure and its related bodies. 

The purpose was to facilitate a smooth transition to a sole-provider model for prescription delivery systems for publicly-funded electronic scripts.

Following this event, the Department of Health and Aged Care appointed Fred IT Group as the sole provider of Prescription Delivery Services for publicly-funded electronic prescriptions.

Besides the ACCC’s commitment to digital platforms and tech companies, the body has also shown interest in the entertainment industry. A significant offering in June stands as proof of this.

At the time, the ACCC authorized AA1000637, granting the Australian Entertainment Industry Association permission to negotiate with the Australasian Performing Right Association. 

This authorization allowed them to negotiate on behalf of their members for the acquisition of copyright licenses. These offerings and the recent competition laws reflect the ACCC’s intention to improve the experience of users and customers of the respective firms.

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