ACCC to probe tech giants’ ‘web’ of services and impact on consumers and competitions

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has launched a new inquiry, probing how the growing “web” of services offered by tech giants in Australia presents potential consumer harm and competition issues.

In the paper released on Wednesday, the competition regulator announced that the next stage’s focus of its digital platform inquiry will look around the periphery of offerings from Alphabet (Google), Amazon, Apple, Meta (Facebook) and Microsoft.

These include services like smart home devices and consumer cloud storage, which ACCC said have significantly extended tech companies’ reach to Australian consumers.

The issue paper noted that this could raise competition issues by preventing tech giants’ smaller competitors from gaining traction in the market, as they don’t have the capacity to offer a similar breadth of services.

In turn, this could increase the risks to consumer lock-in and a reduction of choices, as switching services with a lack of product and service comparison and transparency would be difficult.

ACCC chair Gina Cass-Gottlieb explained: “Large digital platforms have become an integral part of our daily lives, they have access to enormous user databases and personal information across their ecosystems.

“This report will assess how that data can be leveraged across products and services within an ecosystem that may prevent businesses from entering and competing.

“We’re eager to hear from consumers and businesses about their experiences with digital platform services within these ecosystems, and how they also use other related consumer cloud storage services and smart home devices within a digital platform ecosystem.”

The issue paper marked the beginning of the second last stage in the inquiry. Submissions to the issue paper are due by 5 April, and a report will be provided to the Treasurer by 30 September.

Another interim report that examines the degree of competition between social media services, mergers and acquisitions, digital advertising services and more is due to be provided to the Treasurer by 31 March.

Industry submissions to this report were published in October 2022, including those from TikTok, Meta and Google. While TikTok tried to downplay its significance as a social media service in its submission, Meta argued that the short-form app must be considered as a great force behind the current market segmentation.

The ACCC also has another ongoing inquiry where it is investigating several businesses suspected of making misleading environmental and sustainability marketing claims.


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