Australia’s all-powerful consumer tsar Rod Sims has turned his gaze to competition in web browsers and search. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commissioner (ACCC) is now looking at the default options baked into devices and operating systems.
On Thursday, the ACCC made a call out for Australians’ submissions on ‘choice screens’. This is what the Commission calls the prompt that gives users a choice over which search engine they’ll use when they first use a device.
These will be used to inform a report later this year about how pre-installed search engines and web browsers affect consumers.
“We know that, in general, setting a default option substantially increases the likelihood that consumers and businesses will stick with that option. This can have the effect of reducing competition and consumer choice in the supply of these services,” ACCC Chair Rod Sims said.
According to the issues paper, the Commission wants to know what options Australian consumers have, how default choices affect consumers, whether Europe’s choice screen roll out in Europe would be good for Australia, and whether there are any other options that should be considered.
What did Europe do to deal with default browsers and search engines?
European authorities hit Google with a massive antitrust case in 2018 over its default search options. After hitting them with a AU$7 billion fine, the regulators also forced Google to give its users a choice screen.
However, Google used the decision to do what it does best: make money. It auctioned off the choice to be one of the four options to services owned by companies who make money from monetising your search data, Gizmodo’s Shoshana Wodinsky points out.
Would this happen in Australia? The ACCC wants to find out and will consider default web browsers and search engines as part of its interim report into its mammoth Digital Platform Services inquiry due in September 2021.