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ACCC Calls For Big Tech Competition & Consumer Laws

According to the ACCC’s latest report, the continued expansion of digital platforms into the daily lives and livelihoods of consumers poses certain risks to business and Australians, and that the reach of companies such as Amazon, Apple, Google, Meta, and Microsoft must be addressed by new competition laws and reform to circumvent any potential harm.

The report is the seventh in the Digital Platform Services Inquiry, and is expansion into consumer’s lives has been made through multiple interconnected products and services, which the ACCC recognise offer great benefits for consumers and businesses.

“The significant investments made by digital platforms to develop new technologies are having a transformative effect on our society and economy,” ACCC Chair Gina Cass-Gottlieb said.

But Cass-Gottlieb warns that with the sustained development of digital platforms, there has been an amplified risk of big tech engaging in damaging conduct, like aggressive data collection practices or user “lock-in practices that can reduce choice and stifle innovation”.

The report unearthed that digital platforms collect and use large amounts of consumer data throughout their ecosystems, which may go beyond what is required for functionality or development and could force customers to agree to unfavourable terms and conditions.

The ACCC says that the information collected in the report all points to requiring appropriate regulatory tools to move forward thoughtfully.

“Our proposed reforms include a call for targeted consumer protections and service-specific codes to prevent anti-competitive conduct by particular designated digital platforms,” she said.

With the expansion and fast growth of digital platforms, new products have been introduced such as generative AI, digital health services, information storage, education, and financial products.

The extension of new products and offerings has enabled a greater reach of big tech in consumer’s lives, which impacts several markets such as cloud storage, voice assistants, and emerging technologies, and several touch points with consumers and corporations.

The potential harm from these expansions of big tech includes suppressing competition, invasive consumer data collection practices, and stifling emerging technologies.

The report emphasises the value of digital platforms to the Australian economy, but also the need to guarantee that competition laws are fit-for-purpose to counter the challenges posed by an overreaching of power by big tech companies.

The ACCC recommends new service-specific mandatory codes of conduct for specific ‘designated digital platforms,’ based on legislation principles and that the new regulatory administration would work next to Australia’s current competition laws to address anti-competitive conduct, unfair behaviour of corporate users and opening the gates to potential rivals.

The ACCC has also suggested that all digital platforms must proactively address scams, harmful apps, fake reviews, containing notice and action constraints, and have more robust authentication of corporate users and reviews.

The report is part of the ACCC’s observing of digital platform service, which was established following the Digital Platforms Inquiry in 2019.



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