ACCC calls for feedback on competition in online search services


The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has released its latest issues paper related to its digital platforms services inquiry, this time requesting consumer and industry feedback on the state of Australia’s online general search services.

The paper, set to inform the ACC’s ninth report as part of the inquiry which is due for submission to the Treasurer on 30 September, will explore the level of competition across search services and if this has had effects on search quality.

Despite releasing two other reports that considered competition issues in search and web browser services, this report will be the first to consider the impact of choice screens that have been introduced overseas and generative artificial intelligence (AI).

“Significant changes have occurred since the ACCC last examined search services in 2021,” ACCC Chair, Gina Cass-Gottlieb, said.

“We’ve seen new laws introduced overseas that place obligations on so-called gatekeeper search engines and the emergence of new technologies, like generative AI, that have changed the way consumers search for information online and may be impacting the quality of the service they are receiving.

“The ACCC wants to understand the impact of these developments on general search services and ultimately, how they affect competition and consumers.”

Previous ACCC reports found Google’s search engine service being pre-installed as the default searching method on several devices also enabled it to maintain its status as the most-used search engine in Australia.

The new report will also investigate the legislative reforms introduced in the European Union, United Kingdom and other global regions that have placed requirements on search engines to encourage competition. Similarly, the ACCC’s exploration of AI in search services will be limited to the impacts of AI-powered search engines on competition in the market.

“We are eager to hear from businesses and consumers about their experiences with general search services to better understand how regulatory and industry developments are affecting the level of competition and consumers in the market for general search services,” Cass-Gottlieb said.