The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is putting the local e-commerce scene under the microscope as part of its broader Digital Platform Services Inquiry.
This will see the likes of eBay Australia, Amazon Australia, Catch.com.au and Kogan scrutinised as Australia’s online consumer sales market grew by 57 per cent in 2020 year-on-year, with $50.5 billion spent online, compared with $27.5 billion in 2018.
Although the ACCC noted that no online marketplace carried the same dominant position as Amazon does in the US, it claimed it wanted to scour “potential competition and consumer protection issues that matter most to seller”.
According to the ACCC’s report, eBay is used by 12 million Australians on a monthly basis, while marketplaces such as Amazon, Catch.com.au and Kogan also experienced rapid growth since 2020 as a result of higher the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing lockdowns.
“These online marketplaces are an important and growing segment of the economy, so it is important that we understand how online marketplaces operate and whether they are working effectively for consumers and businesses,” ACCC chair Rod Sims said.
“We want to be sure that the rules that apply to traditional retail are also complied within the online context. We are keen to hear about the experiences of Australians, both consumers and businesses.”
Limited to larger e-commerce platforms — those selling a broad range of goods rather than specialist stores selling a narrow product range — key issues considered by the inquiry will include reviews, how complaints are handled and how consumers’ data is collected and used.
“Online marketplaces offer many benefits to consumers who can shop around for a variety of products in one place, and for sellers which may be able to contract out services such as warehousing, packing and shipping to the marketplaces,” Sims said.
“But we would expect the marketplace to operate fairly for businesses and consumers alike and comply with consumer laws and competition laws.”