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Australian regulator calls for new competition laws for digital platforms

(Reuters) -Australia's competition watchdog said on Monday new competition laws were required in response to the rapid expansion of digital platforms such as Amazon, Apple, Google, Meta and Microsoft in the country.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) in its latest report for the Digital Platform Services Inquiry raised concerns that the expansion of these platforms has increased the risk of them engaging in harmful behaviour such as invasive data collection and practices that lock in customers and limit their choices.

"Our proposed reforms include a call for targeted consumer protections and service-specific codes to prevent anti-competitive conduct by particular designated digital platforms," ACCC Chair Gina Cass-Gottlieb said.

The ACCC has not made specific findings of anti-competitive conduct, but said digital platforms with significant market power can use practices such as the bundling of products, pre-installation and default settings to limit customer choice or deter innovation at competitors.

An Amazon spokesperson said "we are still assessing the details of the report", while Meta declined to comment. Apple, Google and Microsoft did not respond to Reuters requests for comment.

In terms of data collection practices, the ACCC found that these providers have greater access to rich consumer data via expansion, and it was not always clear from the relevant privacy policies if the data collected exceeds that which is required for device functionality or product improvement.

The regulator has also proposed new mandatory obligations on all digital platforms to address scams, harmful apps, fake reviews, including notice and action requirements and stronger verification of business users and reviews.

Competition laws should also address the potential challenges posed by emerging technologies such as generative AI and virtual reality, the ACCC said.

Earlier this year, the regulator announced plans to probe the country's fast-evolving ecosystem of digital platform service providers as part of a five-year inquiry into the sector.

(Reporting by Ayushman Ojha and John Biju in Bengaluru; Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips and Tom Hogue)

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