Regulating in the digital age

The Federal Government has today released its response to the ACCC’s Digital Platforms Inquiry final report, accepting all recommendations apart from tax changes and more stringent copyright enforcement.

The ACCC is pleased. It “will be working closely with the Prime Minister’s Digital Technology Taskforce, the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner, the Australian Communications and Media Authority and other agencies to ensure all of these reforms are addressed in a holistic way”.

The Government outlined a roadmap to address all issues over the next 2 years, and announced its immediate commitment to:

  • Digital Platforms Branch of ACCC. It will monitor and report biannually on the state of competition and consumer protection in digital platform markets, take enforcement action as necessary, and undertake an inquiry into the supply of ad tech services and online advertising, funded with an extra $27m over the next 4 years.
  • Voluntary Digital/Media Code. To address bargaining power concerns between digital platforms and media businesses, the ACCC is to facilitate the development of a voluntary code of conduct between digital platforms and news media businesses, to be finalised by November 2020.
  • Platform Neutral Regulation. Media regulation is to be reformed towards a platform-neutral regulatory framework covering both online and offline delivery of media content to Australian consumers. Legislation, an enhanced regional and small publishers’ package to support high quality news, review of copyright enforcement, and development of a code to deal with disinformation and news quality are planned for 2020.
  • Enhanced Privacy Settings. Through 2020 and 2021 the Government will build on its March 2019 commitment to increase penalties and introduce a binding online privacy code, through further strengthening privacy protections and otherwise reviewing the Privacy Act 1988.

Other related developments include the Government:

  • implementing a pilot external dispute resolution mechanism for complaints between consumers, businesses and digital platforms, and then decide whether to establish a Digital Platforms Ombudsman in 2021; and
  • further consulting on strengthening unfair contract term protections for small businesses, and considering introducing a general unfair trading prohibition.