ACCC looks at browser bias
Regulators are concerned that people’s choices of browsers, and choice within browsers, is being unfairly limited.
The ACCC is seeking submissions from consumers and industry participants about choice screens, which give users a choice of internet search services on mobiles and tablets, rather than a pre-selected search service.
It also wants feedback on the supply of web browsers in Australia.
The competition regulator has put out an issues paper ahead of an upcoming report on the impact of default settings and pre-installation of search services and web browsers.
Manufacturers usually supply desktops, tablets and mobiles with a pre-installed operating system, including a specific web browser. Web browsers, in turn, often select a default search service, which is embedded within the browser.
The ACCC’s Digital Platforms Inquiry Final Report found the Google Chrome browser is pre-installed on nearly all Android devices and that Google Search was the default option on Google Chrome and Apple’s Safari mobile browsers, making it the default search on over 95 per cent of mobile devices. It also found that substantial payments are made by Google to Apple for Google search to be the default on Safari.
A 2020 complaint filed by the US Department of Justice against Google claims that Google pays Apple an estimated US $8-12 billion to be the default search service on Apple Safari and on certain Apple services (such as Siri and Spotlight on the iPhone).
“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.
“We would like to hear from consumers and businesses about the impact of the pre-installation of services and default settings on devices on their use of these services.
“We’re also interested in how the design of user interfaces on devices, such as widgets, search bars, and the steps required for a consumer to change a default search service, can affect how consumers use these services.
“We’re also interested in competition in the supply of web browsers in Australia and the linkages between search services, web browsers, operating systems and devices. The relationships between suppliers, through vertical integration or contractual arrangements, may impact the supply of search services and browsers to Australians,” Mr Sims said.