ACCC invites submissions on data broker services

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has invited views from consumers, businesses and interested stakeholders on data broker services in Australia to help assess best business practices as well as the products and services these data-gathering services create and supply.

The paper, released this week by the consumer protection watchdog, will in particular look at the potential competition and consumer issues that may arise in the supply of data broker services. The paper is part of ACCC’s wider five-year platform services inquiry.

Following this, the Commission will produce the report, which is due to be provided to the Treasurer by 31 March 2024. A key focus of the report will be on data brokers that collect information about people from various third-party sources and how these organisations use this information to create data products and services which they then on-sell or share with other organisations (third-party data brokers).

In particular, the report will examine:

  • sources of data broker information
  • the types of information collected
  • methods of collection, storage, processing and analysing information
  • types of data broker products and services supplied and how these are used
  • competitive dynamics in the data broker industry in Australia
  • potential consumer or small business harms that may arise.

According to ACCC Chair Gina Cass-Gottlieb, there was little transparency and awareness of how data brokers operated despite the vast amounts of information they collected about Australian consumers.

The Chair said that so far data brokers collected information from a range of sources including social media sites, internet and search services, apps, customer loyalty programs, card payment providers and public records, like electoral rolls.

Types of information collected included names, home and work addresses, age, browsing behaviour, purchasing behaviour, and a range of other socio-economic and demographic information.

The report will therefore focus on businesses that collect information from third-party sources that sell or share that data with other organisations (third-party data brokers).

“Some Australian consumers may not be aware that their information is being collected, stored and sold by third-party data brokers with whom they have no direct relationship,” Cass-Gottlieb said.

“This report will explore how third-party data brokers collect and use information to create products and services and if there may be competition and consumer issues arising from this.

“We are eager to hear from data brokers and consumers and businesses that interact with the data broker industry. We are also seeking to understand how data products and services may be beneficial for small businesses.”

The ACCC said it would consider the products and services supplied by several data brokers including CoreLogic, Equifax, Experian, Illion, LiveRamp, Nielsen, PropTrack, Oracle and Quantium.

The ACCC’s Digital Platforms Branch is conducting a five-year inquiry into markets for the supply of digital platform services in Australia and their impacts on competition and consumers, following a direction from the Treasurer in 2020.

The inquiry reports to the Treasurer every six months and examines different forms of digital platform services, their advertising services as well as data brokers.