November 27, 2022
Digital platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Amazon and TikTok need to be subjected by law to mandatory dispute resolution, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has said. As part of its ongoing digital platforms inquiry, the competition regulator also calls for stronger requirements for combatting scams, harmful apps, and fake reviews. The federal government has…

Digital platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Amazon and TikTok need to be subjected by law to mandatory dispute resolution, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has said.

As part of its ongoing digital platforms inquiry, the competition regulator also calls for stronger requirements for combatting scams, harmful apps, and fake reviews.

The federal government has welcomed the report and said it is “considering the ACCC’s recommendations”. It has promised a public consultation.

Released today, the fifth interim report of the inquiry [pdf] proposes mandatory platform-specific codes of conduct “to protect and promote competition”, the ACCC said in a statement announcing the report.

“Our analysis has identified concerning consumer and competition harms across a range of digital platform services that are widespread, entrenched, and systemic,” ACCC chair Gina Cass-Gottlieb said.

“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.”

To counter scams, harmful apps and fake reviews, the ACCC wants legislation to require platforms to have user-friendly reporting processes.

They would be required to “report on scams, harmful apps and fake reviews on their services, and the measures taken to address them”, the regulator said.

Platforms would be required to verify business users like advertisers, app developers and merchants; and their review verification processes should be public.

The ACCC also proposes a digital platform ombudsman scheme to support users’ access to dispute resolution.

Codes of conduct

In addition to existing competition laws, the regulator wants a regime to “address address anti-competitive conduct, unfair treatment of business users, and barriers to entry and expansion by potential rivals.”

“We are calling for service-specific codes of conduct that apply to designated digital platforms,” Cass-Gottlieb said.

“This would ensure the obligations are appropriately targeted to particular competition issues present in specified digital platform services, allow consultation with stakeholders, and provide the flexibility to address emerging and new forms of harmful conduct.”

The codes of conduct would target the long-standing business complaints that digital platforms engage in self-preferencing, tying (making one service dependent on subscribing to another), and “exclusive pre-installation arrangements”.

The codes would also “ensure fair treatment of business users”, the ACCC said, and would improve “switching, interoperability and transparency”.

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