The ACCC Wants to Know if You Prefer ChatGPT Over Google

The ACCC Wants to Know if You Prefer ChatGPT Over Google

The way consumers use search engines like Google has transformed over the past few years, with the rise and rise of TikTok, young people are turning to the video-based app to ask questions. And let’s not forget the big generative AI elephant in the room with ChatGPT, making it easier for consumers to get the answers they’re searching for. 

With this in mind, Australian consumers, businesses and industry figures are invited to provide their feedback to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) on their search engine habits. 

As a part of its five-year digital platform services inquiry, the consumer watchdog wants to understand the state of competition with internet search engine platforms. 

The impact of overseas reforms and technological developments, as well as trends in search quality, are among the issues to be considered by the ACCC as it considers the state of competition in general internet search services in Australia.

ACCC chair, Gina Cass-Gottlieb said she has seen new laws introduced overseas that place obligations on so-called gatekeeper search engines, and the emergence of new technologies, like generative AI, have changed the way consumers search for information online and may be impacting the quality of the service they are receiving.

“The ACCC wants to understand the impact of these developments on general search services and ultimately, how they affect competition and consumers,” she said. 

A new issues paper from the ACCC seeks views about the level of competition in general search services and trends in search quality, including what consumers value in search services and the relationship between the level of competition in the market and search quality.

The impact of regulatory and industry developments, including the overseas introduction of choice screens and the emergence of generative AI, is also a focus.

The new report will also look at legislative reforms rolling out or being considered in the European Union, United Kingdom and other jurisdictions that place obligations on search engines to promote competition.

While the report will consider the emergence of AI-powered search engines and its potential impact on competition in the market for general search services, the ACCC’s consideration of generative AI will be limited to general search services. The report will not examine issues relating to generative AI more broadly, including privacy, online safety, or misinformation issues.

“We are eager to hear from businesses and consumers about their experiences with general search services to better understand how regulatory and industry developments are affecting the level of competition and consumers in the market for general search services.” Ms Cass-Gottlieb said.

Digital Platforms Services Inquiry continues 

In the 2021 Digital Platform Inquiry report, the ACCC found that Google’s search engine being pre-installed as a default search service on devices was contributing to it being the dominant search engine in Australia.

The ACCC’s September 2022 report included recommendations for new laws aimed at protecting and increasing competition in digital platform services, including a potential mandatory code for certain designated search services that could ensure more choice for consumers and lower barriers to expansion by rivals. 

The ACCC has welcomed the federal government’s in-principle agreement to these recommendations.

In the fifth report of the Digital Platforms Services Inquiry, released at the end of 2022, the ACCC made a range of recommendations to bolster competition in the digital economy, level the playing field between big tech companies and Australian businesses, and reduce prices for consumers.

In November last year, the ACCC highlighted the need for better regulation over tech giants, Amazon, Apple, Google, Meta, and Microsoft. 

A month later in December, the federal government agreed with the ACCC on the need for regulation over big tech but said it wanted to focus on dispute resolution within those platforms first. 

The ACCC has also proposed new mandatory obligations on all digital platforms to address scams, harmful apps, fake reviews, including notice and action requirements and stronger verification of business users and reviews.

Image: Universal Pictures

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