ACCC chair Rod Sims has delivered a strongly-worded warning to Facebook and Google in the wake of the recent Digital Platforms Inquiry, telling the companies Australia can “act alone” if necessary.
Speaking at the Melbourne Press Club, Sims (pictured) reflected on the recently completed inquiry and discussed potential outcomes moving forward.
Some commentary around the ACCC’s inquiry has suggested any regulation that is seen as heavy-handed could scare off these billion-dollar companies from Australian shores.
But Sims was unfazed by this possibility, issuing a ‘my way or the highway’ warning of sorts.
“Australia can, if necessary, act alone. Facebook and Google are clearly subject to our laws. They either comply or do not do business in Australia,” Sims said.
“In the past these companies have threatened to withdraw services from a country in response to local laws.
“I do not think this will happen here. Not only are our measures carefully calibrated, but we are closely in touch with our overseas counterparts who are sympathetic to both the issues we have raised, and our solutions.”
The 18-month+ inquiry culminated in a 600-page report handed down by Treasurer Josh Frydenberg last month.
It included 23 recommendations to respond to the “substantial market power” of Facebook and Google, including potential changes to merger laws to prevent future deals like Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram.
The government is currently working with these companies to develop a new ‘harmonised’ media regulatory framework based on the report by the end of the year.
Sims said he was convinced the ACCC had “got it right” with its recommendations, but confessed there is no “silver bullet’ solution.
“Do not underestimate the power of what we have recommended to be put in place now,” he said.
“First, taking the digital platforms to court here or overseas lays down rules within which they must work. These are more important than the level of penalties.
“Once found to breach a law, it will be very difficult for a digital platform to continue with that behaviour in any effective way.”