Meet DP-REG, the Online Forum for Australian Regulators To Collaborate

Meet DP-REG, the Online Forum for Australian Regulators To Collaborate
Image: DP-REG

Australia’s online regulatory bodies have formed the Digital Platform Regulators Forum (DP-REG), set to increase cooperation and collaboration between their operations.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) and the Office of the eSafety Commissioner (eSafety) are members of the new forum, each with their own dedicated areas of regulatory authority.

Regulating the online world often involves a lot of specialist agencies and a lot of blindspots. For instance, the ACCC and the OAIC both have rules that could, theoretically, intersect online (with one focused on competition and consumer rights and the other focused on privacy and freedom of information) but also, once the matter at hand starts to leave the scope of one organisation, then it becomes a matter of which they can’t really do much about, going into the realm of another organisation.

When it starts to slip from the specialty of one body and into the other, it can be difficult to enforce the law online. Hence, DP-REG.

DP-REG is an initiative involving the earlier mentioned independent regulators, set up as a forum for collaborating and sharing information on overlapping issues and activities, centred around the regulation of digital platforms. It’s not a decision-making body and is simply a means for online regulators to work together.

“The new Digital Platform Regulators Forum seeks to increase cooperation and information sharing between digital platform regulators on the common areas of our work, including approaches to regulation,” said Rod Sims, chair of the ACCC.

“Digital platforms play an increasingly important role in the lives of Australians for information, entertainment and social contact with family and friends,” said Nerida O’Loughlin, chair of ACMA.

“We are seeking to build a ring of regulatory defence where privacy, competition, consumer protection, online safety, communications and data issues intersect,” added Angelene Falk, Commissioner of the OAIC.

Members of DP-REG will meet every two months to discuss intersecting issues, although ad hoc meetings may also be considered. Additionally, DP-REG will be led by a rotating chairperson, supported by a rotating secretariat, both rotating every six months. Each member will have to nominate a chairperson and secretariat. The forum will review its terms of reference annually.

If you want a live example of where some of these bodies may intersect, consider Australian social media regulation, which often encompasses consumer, competition, privacy, protection, online safety, communications and data issues.

As you may know, platforms like Facebook have been subject to scrutiny from Australian online regulatory bodies, propping up a greater reason for why a forum like DP-REG needs to exist.

“Adopting a collaborative and complementary regulatory approach, alongside strengthening Australia’s privacy regime through the review of the Privacy Act, will achieve results that protect and empower consumers and protect personal information wherever it flows,” Falk added.

We’ll keep our eyes peeled for what this forum will achieve and where it’ll lead. In the meantime, you can read the joint statement from all the member bodies here.