Tuesday, 01 March 2022 16:12

ACCC seeks input for likely new rules on digital platforms Featured

Rod Sims: "Now is the time to consider whether further reforms are needed to supplement the important tools in Australia’s competition and consumer law..." Rod Sims: "Now is the time to consider whether further reforms are needed to supplement the important tools in Australia’s competition and consumer law..." Courtesy YouTube

Australia's consumer watchdog is seeking input from consumers, businesses and others as it examines legislative options to address the dominance of digital platforms.

In a statement issued on Monday, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission said a discussion paper, released on the same day, looked at possible ways of tackling issues in social media, search app marketplaces, online retail and ad technology.

Last year, news media laws drafted by the ACCC were put in place so that big digital firms could negotiate monetary deals with media organisations. While some organisations have reached agreement on payment, others — SBS and The Conversation are two prominent examples — have not been able to reach satisfactory deals.

Commenting on the call for input, ACCC chairman Rod Sims said: “The upcoming fifth report will mark the halfway point of the Digital Platform Services Inquiry. Now is the time to consider whether further reforms are needed to supplement the important tools in Australia’s competition and consumer law to maintain a vibrant digital economy that drives innovation and enhances productivity.

“There is momentum building internationally, with authorities and lawmakers around the world taking action to address the competition and consumer harms arising on digital platforms.

“These platforms hold powerful positions in the economy and society and can often dictate terms to businesses that use their services. This in turn can harm consumers and the small businesses that rely on them, including through higher prices, greater use of personal data, reduced choice, less innovation or lower quality products.”

The discussion paper lists measures that could form part of a new regulatory setup to increase competition and increase consumer welfare.

“Since the ACCC began examining digital platform services in 2017, large digital platforms such as Google, Apple and Meta (Facebook's parent company) have continued to grow and expand their impact and influence on the economy and our day-to-day lives,” Sims said.

“It is clear that large digital platforms are often protected by high barriers to entry and expansion, and in some cases, they have become ‘gatekeepers’, acting as critical intermediaries between businesses and consumers, and controlling access to consumers.

“We are looking at whether we need additional laws or reform to make the online environment fairer for businesses and safer for consumers."

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Sam Varghese

Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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