The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has stated that there is a critical need for a new era of antitrust legislation to keep pace with technology development, according to its report published today (27 November). 

The ACCC’s report examines the growth and disruption of Big Tech companies such as Google, Microsoft, Meta and Amazon

Its report found that the market cap of Big Tech companies all individually surpassed the five biggest companies in Australia, including its national bank, and mining company BHP

Additionally, digital platform service providers are increasingly involved in emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI). The ACCC’s report explained that since AI is being integrated into tools for everyday use, such as translating software or spell check, and Big Tech companies behind AI chatbots are driving the development of AI, clearer regulation needs to be introduced. 

AI, cloud computing and immersive technologies (such as VR) were identified as key investment areas that had the biggest gaps between Big Tech and smaller companies. 

Between 2013 and 2020, Apple alone had purchased 14 AI companies that worked on facial recognition, language processing and machine learning. 

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By GlobalData

The ACCC states that smaller companies will struggle to match these investments, and thereby have a knock-on effect on Australia’s economy in the future as technology continues to become integrated into consumers’ lives. 

“The size and scale of these digital platform service providers does not alone raise concerns. Big is not automatically bad,” reads the report, “However, there is a risk that this expansion may be driven by a desire to protect a position of market power or extend a position into new markets.” 

The report also investigated the data collection behaviours of Big Tech. 

Whilst Big Tech companies have been scrutinised in the past over their use of user data collected via social media platforms, the ACCC stated that companies like Amazon have also been collecting troves of user data via smart home products like its smart speaker Alexa. 

As smart home product ecosystems expand, consumers may be forced to agree to have their data used without proper consent warned ACCC Chair Cass Gottlieb. 

“Consumers who use multiple products from a single digital platform may be forced to agree to unfavourable terms and conditions due to a lack of suitable alternatives or because it is simply too inconvenient or costly to move out of that ecosystem,” she stated. 

GlobalData’s 2023 thematic intelligence report into tech regulation, stated that there would be a “global rethinking” in relation to antitrust regulation in order to keep up with the digital revolution. 

GlobalData forecasts that ex-ante (before the event) regulation will become more favourable than current regulatory fines as a more effective solution to controlling company behaviour.