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ACCC Calls For Search Engine & Browser Options For Android Users

The ACCC is calling on Google to allow Australian users of Android devices to use their own preferred search engine and internet browser, as proposed in Europe, rather than being provided with defaults.

Among the 23 recommendations found in the recently released Digital Platforms Inquiry, the ACCC says Google should follow what it is doing in Europe and allow users the freedom to choose their default search engine and internet browser from a number of options.

“Our recommendations are comprehensive and forward looking and deal with the many competition, consumer, privacy and new media issues we have identified throughout the course of this Inquiry,” said ACCC chair Rod Sims.

“Importantly, our recommendations are dynamic in that they will provide the framework and the information that governments and communities will need to address further issues as they arise.”

“Our goal is to assist the community in staying up-to-date with these issues and future-proofing our enforcement, regulatory and legal frameworks.”

In Europe, Google was hit with a record 4.43-billion-euro fine last year for using the market power of its mobile software to block rivals in areas such as internet browsing.

The European Commission said Google had an unfair advantage by pre-installing its Chrome browser and Google search app on Android smartphone and notebooks.

This prompted Google to try and come with a proposal to give its rivals a fair chance, ultimately deciding to allow the region’s Android users to choose rival browsers and search engines from five options.

The five apps are chosen based on their popularity, which is determined based on industry data and the number of downloads in each country, and will be listed in random order.

“On Android phones, you’ve always been able to install any search engine or browser you want, irrespective of what came pre-installed on the phone when you bought it,” Kent Walker, senior vice-president of Google, said in a blog post.

“In fact, a typical Android phone user will usually install around 50 additional apps on their phone.”

“Now, we’ll also do more to ensure that Android phone owners know about the wide choice of browsers and search engines available to download to their phones.”

The ACCC Inquiry report identified many adverse effects associated with digital platforms, many of which flow from the dominance of Google and Facebook.

“The dominant digital platforms’ response to the issues we have raised might best be described as ‘trust us’,” Sims said.

“There is nothing wrong with being highly focused on revenue growth and providing increasing value to shareholders – indeed it can be admired.”

“But we believe the issues we have uncovered during this Inquiry are too important to be left to the companies themselves.”

“Action on consumer law and privacy issues, as well as on competition law and policy, will all be vital in dealing with the problems associated with digital platforms’ market power and the accumulation of consumers’ data.”

The ACCC says if Google does not introduce similar options for Australian Android users by six months from the date of the report, it will submit to the government that it should consider compelling Google to offer this choice.