Gina Cass-Gottlieb goes after Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, Google and Meta in call for competition law fix

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Neale PriorThe West Australian
Gina Cass-Gottlieb
Camera IconGina Cass-Gottlieb Credit: AAPIMAGE

Australia’s competition regulator has warned technology giants pose ever-growing dangers as she pushes for a tightening of merger laws.

Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chair Gina Cass-Gottlieb also described Google, Apple, Microsoft, Amazon and Facebook’s parent Meta as “serial acquirers” while raising concerns about takeovers being used by big digital platforms to extend and protect their market power.

Ms Cass-Gottlieb said competitive constraint from smaller rivals could be the most significant form of competition to an established player in concentrated digital markets.

“Acquisitions of data-driven businesses can enable a platform that already has access to a large volume and scope of data to extend its market power to other markets,” she told a Sydney conference on Tuesday.

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“Firms with large market share or strategic positions in these markets can undermine competition by acquiring nascent competitors before they have the opportunity to become a substantial threat.”

The ACCC has called on the Federal Government to increase its capacity to block proposed mergers under the long-held principle takeovers should not substantially lessen competition.

It has proposed that what constitutes lessening competition be extended to include mergers that entrench or materially increase a player’s substantial market power.

Considerations would also include the merged group gaining increased access to data and technology.

Most importantly, the ACCC wants to replace the current process where it must apply to the Federal Court to block mergers.

It wants to its own power to stop mergers proceeding with the Australian Competition Tribunal able to review its decision.

Treasurer Jim Chalmers in August set up a working group in his department to review the ACCC’s recommendations and to look at other issues concerning competition issues raised by new technology.

Ms Cass-Gottlieb said some big digital platforms had significant market power and acted as gatekeepers between consumers and businesses.

She said this gave them the “ability and incentive to engage in strategic conduct to entrench their market power and extend it into other related services”.

That included conduct like bundling and tying, giving preference to its own offerings, exclusivity deals, barriers to switching, denying interoperability and withholding access to important hardware, software, and data inputs.

“When gatekeeper platforms engage in this sort of anti-competitive behaviour, it exacerbates the already high barriers to entry and expansion faced by rivals that lack access to large data sets,” Ms Cass-Gottlieb said.

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