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19 December 2019

Australian Government Commits New Competition Unit To Tackle Tech Platforms

The Australian Government has committed to a range of measures to crack down on the tech giants including establishing a special unit within the competition authority to look at competition and consumer protection in the digital platform marketplace.

In an announcement, the Australian Government also said it would enhance an initiative designed to help regional and local publishers in the country.  

The announcement follows a series of recommendations in an Australian Competition and Consumer Commission report into the digital platforms which found that the dominance of the tech giants caused “many adverse effects.”

Harms cited in the report include news content creators being reliant on the dominant digital platforms, yet facing difficulties in monetising their content. The market power of Google and Facebook has distorted the ability of businesses to compete on their merits in advertising, media and a range of other markets, the report added.

In response, the Government has now committed to:  

  • Establishing a special unit in the ACCC to monitor and report on the state of competition and consumer protection in digital platform markets, take enforcement action as necessary, and undertake inquiries as directed by the Treasurer, starting with the supply of online advertising and ad-tech services;
  • Addressing bargaining power concerns between digital platforms and media businesses by tasking the ACCC to facilitate the development of a voluntary code of conduct;
  • Commencing a staged process to reform media regulation towards an end state of a platform-neutral regulatory framework covering both online and offline delivery of media content to Australian consumers;
  • Ensuring privacy settings empower consumers, protect their data and best serve the Australian economy by building on our commitment to increase penalties and introduce a binding online privacy code announced in the 2019–20 Budget, through further strengthening of Privacy Act protections, subject to consultation and design of specific measures as well as conducting a review of the Privacy Act.

The Government said the second phase of reform, to commence later in 2020, will include a review of the advertising rules and restrictions across all delivery platforms, consideration of mechanisms to monitor and enforce the regulatory framework across all platforms, and other measures to “remove redundant legislation and implement a coherent legal framework for consumers and for industry participants.”

The Government said: “The Government recognises that public interest journalism is important to Australia’s democracy, and local and regional journalism is essential in informing and strengthening local communities. A sustainable and adaptable media sector is necessary to support the provision of such journalism.

“The Government will enhance the Regional and Small Publishers Jobs and Innovation Package to better support the production of high quality news, particularly in regional and remote areas of Australia, with a particular focus on the production of public interest journalism that is at greatest risk of being under-provided.”