Australia’s Consumer Watchdog Wants New Laws to Rein in Big Tech and Scammers

Australia’s Consumer Watchdog Wants New Laws to Rein in Big Tech and Scammers

The ACCC has launched another crusade against the internet, still with the monopoly the likes of Google and Meta boast, but this time it wants to introduce new regulatory reform to rein in these big boys of big tech.

Back in July 2019, the ACCC published a whopping 623-page report known as the Digital Platforms Inquiry. The report released today is its fifth in the Digital Platforms Inquiry body of work, and adds another 214 pages to the fight against technology.

This latest report is centred on regulatory reform.

Competition reform

Specifically, the consumer watchdog is campaigning for the introduction of “additional competition measures” for digital platforms, ones that “protect and promote competition”. This would mean a new law (or at least a code) that would be different for each type of digital platform but contain several obligations each of the tech giants would need to comply with.

The new anti anti-competitive regulatory regime, the ACCC said, would work alongside Australia’s existing competition laws.

As part of this, there’s a push from the ACCC to have tech giants release their monopoly chokehold a little.

It wants to rid anti-competitive self-preferencing (such as Google displaying a Google-owned product in Search as its top result); end pre-installation and default agreements that hinder competition (such as Apple only having Safari installed on an iPhone) and impediments to consumer switching (ie taking your data from Facebook and dumping it on a new platform’s social media product). These, and a few other measures, would be brought in via the new code under the banner of “barriers to entry and expansion by potential rivals”.

Scams and misleading reviews

The ACCC also wants the tech giants to do more to combat scams. It’s not just the scammers that roam free on social media, but also the fact that fraudulent apps are available on app stores, and fake reviews and review manipulation are aplenty.

Its recommendation around this is providing a user-friendly processes for reporting scams, harmful apps, and fake reviews, and for the platforms to respond to such reports. Interestingly, the ACCC flags ‘verification’ of certain businesses as a way to reduce the risk of scams. But this could also take the form of little disclosures that tell consumers something they’re seeing is a paid advertisement.

Also on the ACCC’s regulatory reform wish list is for digital platforms to report on scams that pepper their platforms and a way for consumers (and businesses) to make disputes. This, the ACCC said, would be supported by the establishment of a new digital platform ombuds scheme.

“Digital platforms that host or otherwise act as intermediaries between scammers and their victims are in a unique position to identify and stop scams and remove harmful apps,” ACCC chair Gina Cass-Gottlieb said, adding “The critical positions that digital platforms hold, as ‘gatekeepers’ or ‘intermediaries’ between businesses and consumers, mean they have a broad influence across the economy, making the reforms we are recommending crucial and necessary for all Australians.”

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