Competition regulator mulls data transparency for major platforms

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Competition regulator mulls data transparency for major platforms

Data transparency, dark patterns up for grabs.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has kicked off the next phase of its digital platforms inquiry, asking what kinds of legislation and rules could apply to major online platforms like Meta, Google and Apple.

The commission today published Discussion paper for Interim Report No. 5: Updating competition and consumer law for digital platform services (PDF), open for comment until 1 April, 2022, with its interim report due in September.

The ACCC wants to know whether new regulatory tools are needed to address digital platforms’ competition and consumer issues; and what options exist for regulatory reform.

The commission asks respondents to consider regulatory tools such as:

  • Legislative prohibitions and obligations;
  • Codes of practice;
  • Giving a legislative authority rule-making powers;
  • Pro-competition or pro-consumer measures, if the inquiry identifies harm to either; and
  • Third-party data access regimes.

Since other countries are also looking at how the major platforms might be regulated, the paper also asks to what extent Australia should align with other jurisdictions.

The discussion paper suggests social media services, private messaging services (like Telegram and WhatsApp), and app marketplaces as potential targets for regulation, and asks whether any other digital platforms should be included.

As outgoing chair Rod Sims said in a recent National Press Club address, the platforms “engage in many activities, from product bundling to self-preferencing their own products and services, that have lessened competition in various important digital markets over time”.

To address what the commission calls the platforms’ “data advantages”, the paper asks for comment on imposing data portability, interoperability, sharing, and access regimes on the platforms. This could cover the platforms’ “click-and-query data, pricing data, [and] consumer usage data”.

Regulation of “dark patterns”, an area which the EU is proposing to regulate, is also on the table. 

Other proposals up for grabs include algorithmic transparency for both consumers and businesses, and scrutiny of platforms’ acquisitions. 


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