ACCC tackles Big Tech’s digital services sprawl
Australia’s competition watchdog is set to examine the ever-expanding ecosystems of Google, Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft, and the extent to which they are locking up more of a consumer’s online activity.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has launched a month-long consultation with an issues paper [pdf] outlining the ways ecosystem expansion might harm consumers.
Chair Gina Cass-Gottleib said growing consumer and business reliance on large platforms’ products made it “crucial we examine how these companies are expanding their reach”.
The ACCC said platforms “continue to invest heavily across different sectors and technologies, creating a web of interconnected products and services.”
While different platforms have chosen different sectors as their investment targets, the ACCC notes their reach can stretch into sectors as disparate as AI, virtual reality, virtual assistants, education health and fitness, media, the internet of things, gaming, cloud, and financial technology.
As well as wrapping up a huge amount of users’ online lives under a single company’s services, the breadth of the ecosystems presents a barrier to new entrants, the ACCC said.
A provider like Google, Apple, or Amazon could, for example, make life hard for a new entrant by restricting interoperability of their services, to create a “less seamless experience” with services outside their ecosystem.
“Interconnected products, like smart home devices and cloud storage solutions, can provide consumers with a seamless experience that simplifies everyday tasks, but it’s important that competition and consumers are not harmed as digital platforms invest across different sectors and technologies and expand their reach,” Cass-Gottlieb said.
Other anti-competitive behaviours the ACCC wants to hear about include bundling, tying, self-preferencing, or cutting pre-installation deals with other companies such as hardware providers.
Submissions are open until April 5.