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Should Woolworths, Coles & Big W Be Regulated Over Big Data Revenue Grab

As the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission gets set to regulate the powers of multinational digital platforms — including Google, Facebook and Amazon the big question is whether anyone is going to regulate retailers such as Woolworths, Big W and Dan Murphy as well as the likes of Coles and who are providing a loyalty card to consumers and collecting confidential data at the till and then providing that data to brands who they want to shift their ad spend from traditional media to Woolworths instore media networks.

The 600-page report into the behaviour of the tech giants to be handed down today by the consumer watchdog is tipped to to expand the powers of the ACCC that could lead to significant reforms to the practices of the tech companies, including new regulations to cover breaches of consumer and competition law, private consumer data collection and copyright theft from major media organisations.

A key element of the investigation is the collection of data by organisations and the onsale and use of that data to generate advertising online andinside shopping networks such as Amazon. This week Woolworths who have been investigating instore retail networks since 2004 announced a new instore big screen network aimed at luring brands who sell products at Woolworths owned stores such as Big W away from traditional free to air TV networks and media Companies using data collected at a till. This is no different than what the airlines and Amazon are doing to attract consumers to their retail networks.

In what the ACCC will claim as a “crackdown” on the digital platforms Google and Facebook, the government will at a 10.30 press conference endorse recommendations on how the digital giants and Companies collecting vast amount of digital data are regulated, including more scrutiny of how they store and use personal data, and engage in anti-competitive behaviour.

Woolworths are well known for bullying brands into supporting Woolworths and the use of confidential data to secure advertising deals is just one more step in the Companies objective of stripping revenue from brands back to Woolworths bottom line as opposed to external media organisations.

Back in 204 Woolworths investigated Retail TV and at on stage trialled TV screens in stores. Working with their then agency Ad Works and TPG who owned George Patterson Woolworths abandoned the concept after poor results.

In the future when a featured item is scanned by the cashier, it triggers a related offer on a customer-facing touchscreen.

The offer is accepted when the customer activates the touchscreen by providing data.

ChannelNews understands the government will stop short of giving a formal policy response with the release of the report, despite it being handed to the Treasurer by ACCC chairman Rod Sims a month ago.

The Morrison government will instead delay an official response to the report until the end of the year, claiming it requires more time for “stakeholder consolation”.

The report is understood to compel companies to better explain how they store and use data on individuals.

Between them both Coles and Woolworths have access to a vast amout of data on how Australians spend their money in their preliminary report, the ACCC ruled that Facebook and other technology platforms had “substantial” market power due to the amount of data they were collecting on individuals and their spending habits.

The ACCC recommended a regulatory approach to tackle algorithm transparency fears.

It also recommended preventing Google’s internet browser Chrome being installed as a default on mobile phones, computers and tablets.

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