ACCC investigating search engines

By AdNews | 18 March 2024
Photo by Burst on Unsplash.

The ACCC is calling for feedback about developments in general search services in Australia as part of its five-year digital platform services inquiry.

An issues paper, released today, seeks views about the level of competition in general search services and trends in search quality, including what consumers value in search services and the relationship between the level of competition in the market and search quality.

The impact of regulatory and industry developments, including the overseas introduction of choice screens and the emergence of generative AI, is also a focus.

ACCC chair Gina Cass-Gottlieb said significant changes have occurred since the ACCC last examined search services in 2021.

"We’ve seen new laws introduced overseas that place obligations on so-called gatekeeper search engines and the emergence of new technologies, like generative AI, that have changed the way consumers search for information online and may be impacting the quality of the service they are receiving,” she said.

“The ACCC wants to understand the impact of these developments on general search services and ultimately, how they affect competition and consumers.”

The ACCC previously considered competition and consumer issues in general search and web browser services in its September 2021 and Digital Platforms Inquiry reports. Those reports found that Google’s search engine being pre-installed as a default search service on devices was contributing to it being the dominant search engine in Australia.

The ACCC’s September 2022 report included recommendations for new laws aimed at protecting and increasing competition in digital platform services, including a potential mandatory code for certain designated search services that could ensure more choice for consumers and lower barriers to expansion by rivals. The ACCC has welcomed the Government’s in-principle agreement to these recommendations.

The new report will also look at legislative reforms rolling out or being considered in the European Union, United Kingdom and other jurisdictions that place obligations on search engines to promote competition.

While the report will consider the emergence of AI-powered search engines and its potential impact on competition in the market for general search services, the ACCC’s consideration of generative AI will be limited to general search services. The report will not examine issues relating to generative AI more broadly, including privacy, online safety, or misinformation issues.


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