Small businesses have only two days left to comment on digital platform fairness for the ACCC inquiry

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Small businesses dealing with tech giants like Google, Facebook, and Amazon have only two days to submit their feedback to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), which is investigating whether domestic lawmakers should enforce new rules on digital juggernauts.

As part of its Digital Platform Services Inquiry, the consumer watchdog is considering the role of big tech platforms in Australia, and whether their market dominance has “negative consequences on competition as well as business users and consumers”.

In a February discussion paper, the ACCC feared existing provisions in the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 and Australian Consumer Law is “insufficient to address the breadth of concerns arising in relation to rapidly changing digital platform services”.

Areas of interest include the pricing of digital ads, a crucial customer acquisition tool in the online spending boom.

The inquiry is considering how platforms prove the effectiveness of those ads to businesses, and how they decide which ads to remove from display.

Platform algorithms are also under review. As small businesses vie for top billing in online search results, the ACCC is investigating whether digital platforms should be more transparent about how their ranking systems work.

In addition, the inquiry is considering how tech giants handle business communication with customers and responses to complaints.

Their handling of fake reviews is also under investigation, along with the cost of distributing apps on digital marketplaces owned by Apple or Google.

Submissions to the inquiry, which opened in late March, close on Friday, April 29. The ACCC will report its findings to the Treasurer in September this year.

Digital platforms and small businesses alike will keenly await the results of that report, given the ACCC’s role in championing the influential News Media Bargaining Code.

The Code, which was legislated early last year, was designed to encourage digital platforms to strike commercial deals with Australian news publishers for the use of their reports.

Early drafts of the legislation led to protests from major digital platforms.

Facebook temporarily banned Australian news reports from its platform, and Google threatened to remove its core Search functionality from the Australian market if mandatory bargaining rules came into place.

But under the final legislation, lawmakers can only ‘designate’ digital platforms under the Code if they refuse to broker commercial agreements with news publishers on their own.

Both Facebook and Google have since launched their own news initiatives, which compensate news publishers for the use of their content.

Small business operators looking to comment for the Digital Platform Services Inquiry can do so here.

Private Media, the parent company of SmartCompany, is a current participant of the Google Showcase program. Content from SmartCompany and other Private Media brands is featured on Showcase as part of a commercial partnership.

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