Small business ombudsman Bruce Billson welcomes the competition regulator’s call for feedback from small businesses about their experiences dealing with online marketplaces such as eBay Australia, Amazon and Kogan.
Bruce Billson, Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman (ASBFEO), says he supports the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) scrutiny of online marketplaces as an increasing number of small businesses are selling products on these platforms.
“We welcome the ACCC’s interest in this area as it’s an important and growing channel for small and family businesses engaging with their customers,” Billson tells SmartCompany.
On Thursday, the ACCC called for small businesses and major brands to make submissions to its ongoing Digital Platform Services inquiry.
The ACCC wants small business sellers to share their experiences of using marketplaces by completing a short online survey.
The inquiry will focus on pricing practices, the use of data, terms and conditions imposed on third-party sellers, and the effects on competition when the marketplace also operates as a seller on its platform. It will also examine consumer issues, such as the ability of customers to leave reviews, how complaints are handled and how consumer data is collected and used.
Billson says his office has received a number of enquiries from small businesses with concerns about the practices of online marketplaces.
Some small businesses have found navigating regulatory requirements on global marketplaces complicated. For example, the marketplace has refused to allow them to sell their product to Australian consumers because it’s prohibited in another country they operate within.
Other complaints ASBFEO has received relate to small and family businesses having their accounts deactivated for no apparent reason.
“And they have had great difficulty trying to contact somebody to remedy whatever the concern is,” Billson says.
The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a boom in online shopping, with online purchases growing 57% in 2020 year-on-year.
Australians spent a record $50.5 billion online in 2020, compared with $27.5 billion in 2018, according to the ACCC.
Rod Sims, ACCC chair, said the inquiry aims to make sure the rules that apply to traditional retail are also complied with in the online context.
“We are keen to hear about the experiences of Australians, both consumers and businesses,” Sims said.
The Digital Platforms Services inquiry was established in 2020 following a direction from the federal government.
The inquiry will run for five years and examine markets for the supply of digital platform services and their effects on competition and consumers.
More than 12 million Australians reportedly use eBay to shop or sell their goods every month, while Amazon recorded gross sales of $2.6 billion in 2020.