ACCC supports government's agreement to new competition and consumer laws

By AdNews | 8 December 2023
Catriona Lowe.

The ACCC has welcomed the Australian government’s in-principle agreement to new competition and consumer laws, recommended by the ACCC to address harms caused by digital platforms.

The ACCC recommendations, made in its September 2022 Digital Platform Services Inquiry report, called for mandatory codes of conduct for certain digital platforms to prevent anti‑competitive conduct.

Anti-competitive conduct identified in the report included self-preferencing, where platforms favour their own services in search results and app stores, and tying - for example, with developers being forced to use app stores’ in-app payment systems that charge commissions of up to 30%.

In a statement, the Government said it recognises the "extensive work" by the ACCC throughout the Digital Inquiry, and agrees that stronger measures are warranted to protect consumers and businesses from harms on digital platforms. 

Minister for communications, Michelle Rowland, said in an increasingly digital landscape, protecting consumers and businesses from online harms is of vital importance.

“This work builds on measures the Albanese Government is taking to strengthen regulatory frameworks for digital platforms, including our strong action on scams and proposals to improve transparency of digital services," she said.

ACCC acting chair Catriona Lowe said companies like Google, Apple, Meta, Microsoft and Amazon supply services that most Australians use every day and that these digital platforms are often unavoidable ‘gatekeepers’ between Australian businesses and consumers, giving them huge influence across the whole economy.

“The proposed reforms will ensure fairer and more transparent treatment of small and medium-sized businesses, allowing Australians to fully realise the benefits of participating in the digital economy," she said.

"By promoting competition in these markets, the reforms will also provide consumers more choice, higher quality services, and fairer terms and conditions.”

The government has also agreed in principle to address consumer harms caused by scams, harmful apps and fake reviews.

This will include requesting that digital platforms develop voluntary internal dispute resolution standards by July 2024 and doing further work to develop internal and external dispute resolution requirements for platforms.

In late November, the Government also committed to introduce mandatory industry codes for industries including digital communications platforms to address scams.

The ACCC’s Digital Platforms Branch is conducting a five-year inquiry into markets for the supply of digital platform services in Australia and their impacts on competition and consumers, following a direction from the Treasurer in 2020. The ACCC reports to the Government every six months and examines different types of digital platform services.

The eighth report, due to the Government in March next year, will examine data brokers.

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