Australian Businesses Vs. Digital Platforms: The Fight Continues

Australian Businesses Vs. Digital Platforms: The Fight Continues

The Australian government has long had an issue with major digital platforms. If they saw each other in a bar, a fight would probably break out. In 2021, 17 million Australian Facebook users were no longer allowed to view or share news content on the platform - and let’s not forget how we almost lost Google and prayed Bing had what it took to step in.

While uncertainty around major digital platforms (like Facebook, Google and Apple) affects everyone, it’s small businesses that are most likely to feel the effects of a big change. This is where they do their networking and advertising, and so any big changes usually mean a strategy shake-up is in order.

Right now, those with skin in the game are waiting on results from a survey from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC). Here’s what’s happening and what it could mean.

The ACCC’s investigation

Consumer watchdog ACCC is in the midst of a Digital Platform Services Inquiry. They want to find out whether consumers - particularly businesses - have a positive experience with tech giants. This follows problems many businesses deal with, like the price of digital ads, issues with fake reviews and even account termination.

On top of that, they’ll be examining the fairness of platform algorithms, transparency about ranking systems and how the platforms communicate with customers and respond to complaints.

So between 29th April 2022 and 23rd March 2022, businesses were invited to have their say via a 15-minute survey. In September this year, the ACCC plans to report its findings to the Treasurer, to determine whether new laws should be brought in to improve the experience of digital platforms for Australia’s small businesses. 

If new laws related to digital platforms are passed, what happens next?

It all depends on whether the survey finds that new laws are needed and if so, which platforms will be affected. According to the ACCC, Australians spend almost 40% of our waking hours online - so they want to make sure it’s a nice place to be.

Any change will be implemented to take away some of the power of these media mega-sites. Right now, they act as gatekeepers between businesses and end-users, holding control over the terms of trade, costing and competitive dynamics - as well as society and the economy on a broader scale. 

The ACCC will find out whether change is needed and look for ways to reform. This will come in the form of a new regulatory framework, which hasn’t yet been specified. This framework will be developed to address competition and consumer harm, fix the imbalance between digital platforms and news media organisations, and help support the sustainability of Australian news media.

Overall, though, it will seek to make sure Australian businesses and consumers don’t have to deal with increased prices and high barriers to entry thanks to the dynamics of the likes of Google and Facebook.

For some extra homework on the subject, have a read of the full discussion paper on the Digital Platform Services Inquiry.

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