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FOR RELEASE: Monday 29 July 2019

CPRC Welcomes the ACCC Digital Platforms Inquiry Final Report

Consumer Policy Research Centre (CPRC) welcomes the release of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) Digital Platforms Inquiry Final Report.

CPRC CEO, Lauren Solomon highlighted the national and international significance of the report, which confirms CPRC’s research that the growing harms from the information and power imbalance between digital platforms and consumers requires a coordinated and significant policy response.

“We welcome the ACCC’s Final Report on the Digital Platforms Inquiry and commend the finding of market and regulatory failure in Australian personal data collection practices,” said Ms Solomon.

“The recommendations are consistent with our own research, which has found data collection is largely opaque, leaving consumers in the dark about what data they are handing over, and the value of that data.”

“The speed and scope of transformation in the digital economy is creating distinct policy challenges. Globally, governments and businesses are recognising the need for government intervention, with a focus on transparency, protecting fundamental human rights, preventing exploitation and ensuring consumers gain a fair share of the value generated by new data-fuelled technologies.”

“CPRC strongly supports the ACCC’s recommendations in this report. This is a step in the right direction to ensuring appropriate protection frameworks for consumers while enabling innovation to thrive and economies to grow. The digital economy simply cannot operate without the trust of consumers and the broader community.”

The ACCC Digital Platforms Inquiry Final Report follows CPRC’s A Day in the Life of Data report released in May 2019, Submission to the Consultation on the ACCC Digital Platforms Inquiry Preliminary Report released in February 2019 and Consumer data and the digital economy: Emerging issues in data collection, use and sharing report released in July 2018.

Many of CPRC’s key recommendations and research findings were consistent with the ACCC’s report, including:

  • Consumers need to be enabled and protected. The ACCC’s recommendations both enable consumers to make more informed consent, but also introduce minimum protections. CPRC’s latest research recommends that a mix of policies are required, including requiring transparency, enabling consumer comprehension and control, implementing accountability measures, and establishing minimum protection standards.¹
  • Enabling consumer comprehension and control is an essential policy lever. ACCC’s recommendation to strengthen notification and consent requirements, as well as a right to the erasure of personal information, is a good step forward in giving Australian consumers more control. 2018 CPRC research found 91% of Australians only want providers to collect information required to deliver the service.²
  • Enabling erasure. The ACCC recommends that consumers can erase their personal information when they have withdrawn their consent and it is no longer necessary to provide the consumer with a service. Consumer Data Right consumer research shows over 50% of consumers expect services to delete personal data once consent is revoked.³
  • Increasing penalties. The ACCC recommends that breaches of the Privacy Act mirror increased penalties for breaching Australian Consumer Law. This reflects the increasing value of personal data in the data collection, sharing and use landscape in Australia.
  • Addressing unfair and exploitative practices. The ACCC recommends that unfair contract terms be illegal rather than just voidable. Opaque data markets require this kind of intervention to ensure better practices for consumers.

For further information, or to line up an interview contact: Consumer Policy Research Centre (CPRC)

CPRC is an independent, non-profit, consumer think-tank established with seed funding by the Victorian Government in 2016. CPRC undertakes consumer research independently and in partnership with others to inform evidence-based policy and business practice change. We work closely with policymakers, regulators, academia, industry and the community sector to develop, translate and promote evidence-based research to inform practice and policy change.

Key findings from CPRC research – A Day in the Life of Data (May 2019):

  1. Data tracking is increasingly inescapable. Trackers are common offline and online. Even nonusers of major services such as Google and Facebook are being tracked by those companies.
  2. Data collection is largely opaque. Consumers don’t understand what they are handing over or the value of that data. Policymakers will find it difficult to design effective remedies unless the supply chain governing data collection, sharing and use is more transparent.
  3. Consumers feel overwhelmed by privacy policies with limited understanding of, or control, over their data.
  4. Targeted advertising is not the major harm. The more significant harms – and the harms that policymakers and regulators should be discussing – are the growing risk of consumer manipulation, discrimination and exclusion based on automated decision-making using online and offline profile data.
  5. Transparency and accountability are key. The key issues for policymakers are requiring transparency, enabling consumer comprehension and control, implementing accountability measures (for data collection and for automated decision-making), and establishing minimum protection standards.

Key findings from CPRC research – Consumer Data and the Digital Economy (July 2018):

  • 95% of consumers wanted companies to give options to opt out of certain types of information collected about them, how it can be used and/or what can be shared with others.
  • 91% of consumers agreed that companies should only collect the information currently needed to provide the service.
  • When asked ‘what data/information would you be uncomfortable with companies sharing with third parties for purposes other than delivering the product or service’, the four highest-ranking answers were: Phone contacts (87%), Messages (86%), Device ID (84%), Phone number (80%).
  • Of the Australians surveyed who reported reading a Privacy Policy or Terms and Conditions for one or more services/products in the past 12 months: a. Two- thirds (67 per cent) indicated that they still signed up for one or more products even though they did not feel comfortable b. The most common reason (73 per cent) for accepting privacy policies with which consumers were not comfortable was that it was the only way to access the product or service
  • Consumers surveyed found it unacceptable for companies to: a. Charge different consumers different prices based on their (data) profile (88%) b. Collect data about them without their knowledge to assess eligibility or exclude from a loan or insurance (87%) c. Use payment behaviour data to exclude from certain essential products and services (82%)

¹Richmond, B (2019) A Day in the Life of Data, Consumer Policy Research Centre (online report accessed 24 June 2019)

² Nguyen P & Solomon L (2018) Consumer Data and the Digital Economy, Consumer Policy Research Centre (online report accessed 24 June 2019)

³ Tobias, Data61, CHOICE (2019) Design to Thrive, Design to Bias (online report accessed 24 June 2019)

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