Google under scrutiny in digital platform probe

Australians’ access to internet search engines, search quality and the increasing use of generative AI will face further scrutiny from the consumer watchdog.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is probing the provision of general search services in light of multiple global regulatory and industry developments and the increasing use of generative AI as a search tool.

The probe will form part of the latest inquiry into the influence of digital platform services.

The ACCC is calling on consumers, business and industry to provide feedback about developments in and competition between general search services as well as trends in search quality.

The impact of regulatory and industry developments, including the overseas introduction of choice screens and the emergence of generative AI, will also be a focus.

ACCC chair Gina Cass-Gottlieb said the watchdog wanted to understand the current competitive landscape in general search services in Australia, and to what extent it has changed.

“We’ve seen new laws introduced overseas that place obligations on so-called gatekeeper search engines and the emergence of new technologies, like generative AI, that have changed the way consumers search for information online and may be impacting the quality of the service they are receiving,” Ms Cass-Gottlieb said.

“The ACCC wants to understand the impact of these developments on general search services and ultimately, how they affect competition and consumers.”

A previous 2021 inquiry report found that having its search engine pre-installed as a default service on devices contributed to Google being the dominant search engine in Australia.

Google was also found to be the preset default search engine on the overwhelming majority of browsers and other search access points on devices supplied in Australia.

As part of the long-standing probe, the watchdog will look at legislative reforms rolling out or being considered in the European Union, the United Kingdom and other jurisdictions that place obligations on search engines to promote competition.

It will also consider the deployment of generative AI in searches and whether Australians are using AI chatbots and social media services to find information.

The paper will inform the watchdog’s ninth report due to be submitted to the treasurer by September 30 as part of its five-year digital platform services inquiry.


(Australian Associated Press)


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