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Telco Ombudsman Set To Oversee Digital Platforms

The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman has welcomed a recommendation that its scope be widened to include digital platforms.

The 23rd and final recommendation of the report from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s Digital Platforms Inquiry suggests the establishment of an ombudsman to resolve disputes consumers and businesses have with digital platforms like Google and Facebook.

Submissions from small businesses highlighted an inability to resolve disputes and complaints with digital platforms and dissatisfaction with the platforms’ handling of allegedly defamatory comments and anonymous, fake reviews.

The Commission recommends the Australian Communications and Media Authority work with the TIO to investigate whether the Ombudsman would be capable of undertaking the role before establishing a separate standalone ombudsman.

Judi Jones

Newly appointed chair of the TIO Michael Lavarch said the proposal is “a timely alignment with current government actions to safeguard consumers and businesses, and their transactions in the digital space”.

Ombudsman Judi Jones said it was “pleasing” to see the TIO “recognised for its work resolving consumer complaints”.

ACMA chair Nerida O’Loughlin said the government needed to develop a framework for “harmonised” media regulation, but praised the ACCC’s report, calling it a “significant contribution to the global debate” on tech regulation.

The ACCC recommends the eventual ombudsman have the ability to make binding decisions on digital platforms, compel them to take down scam content or provide information, and order them to pay compensation when appropriate.

The government will conduct a 12 week public consultation on the report before acting on any of the recommendations.

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