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ACCC Turns Spotlight On Google

Google is under the ACCC’s microscope, with the consumer watchdog investigating whether default options for browsers and search reduce competition.

The tech giant’s Chrome browser is pre-installed on almost all Android devices, and Google Search is the default option on both Chrome and Apple’s Safari mobile browser. A complaint last year to the US Department of Justice revealed that Google pays Apple $8-12 billion USD per year to be the default option on Safari, as well as Siri and Spotlight.

According to ACCC Chair Rod Sims, setting a default option “substantially increases the likelihood” that consumers and businesses will stick with that option, reducing competition and consumer choice.

“We would like to hear from consumers and businesses about the impact of the pre-installation of services and default settings on devices on their use of these services.

“We’re also interested in how the design of user interfaces on devices, such as widgets, search bars, and the steps required for a consumer to change a default search service, can affect how consumers use these services,” he said.

Rod Sims, ACCC.

The ACCC is compiling a report to be finalised later this year, focusing on choice screens – which offer a choice of internet search services on mobiles or tablets, rather than a default service – as well as the supply of browsers in Australia.

“We’re also interested in competition in the supply of web browsers in Australia and the linkages between search services, web browsers, operating systems and devices.

“The relationships between suppliers, through vertical integration or contractual arrangements, may impact the supply of search services and browsers to Australians,” said Sims.

The ACCC investigation comes as Google comes under fire for alleged anti-competitive practices, with Fortnite developer Epic Games accusing it in a lawsuit filed in the Federal Court of breaching Australian Consumer Law.

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