ACCC looks at browser, search 'choice screens' for Australia

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ACCC looks at browser, search 'choice screens' for Australia

To break grip of default options.

Australia's competition watchdog has raised the prospect of "choice screens" - also known as browser ballots - being displayed to mobile and desktop browser users in the future to make non-default options more apparent.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) said it would consult with industry and release a report in September that, among other things, "the effectiveness of Google’s choice screen roll out in Europe and whether it is fit for purpose within Australia."

It will also consider "whether there are any proposals, other than choice screens, that may facilitate competition and improve consumer choice in the supply of general search services and browsers in Australia."

The consultation and proposal is part of the ACCC's ongoing digital platform services inquiry, which targets the activities and behaviours of 'big tech' firms.

The ACCC’s previous 2019 digital platforms inquiry found Google’s strong market power created a highly protected environment due to the default settings and consumer complacency.

It recommended that Google let Australians decide more freely which web browsers and search engines to use, which was criticised by Google.

The ACCC’s previous digital platforms inquiry found Google's Chrome browser came installed on practically all Android devices, with Google Search the default option in both Safari and Chrome browsers.

The 2019 inquiry also highlighted financial arrangements made between tech giants for Google search to be the default on Safari.

ACCC chair Rod Sims said the commission wanted to "hear from consumers and businesses about the impact of the pre-installation of services and default settings on devices on their use of these services."

“We’re also interested in how the design of user interfaces on devices, such as widgets, search bars, and the steps required for a consumer to change a default search service, can affect how consumers use these services," he said.

Sims added the regulator is interested in competition in the supply of web browsers in Australia and the linkages between search services, web browsers, operating systems and devices.

“The relationships between suppliers, through vertical integration or contractual arrangements, may impact the supply of search services and browsers to Australians,” Sims added.

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