Following a 12-week consultation period, the Australian government has issued its response to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) digital platform inquiry report.

Under the changes announced, a dedicated unit within the ACCC will be established to monitor and report on the state of competition and consumer protection in digital platform markets.

The unit’s first task, which will be underpinned by A$27m in new funding, will examine online advertising and ad-tech services that determine how consumers are targeted using data.

The ACCC will also be tasked with developing a voluntary code of conduct to address bargaining power concerns between digital platforms and media businesses. The watchdog will provide a progress report to government on code negotiations in May 2020, with codes to be finalised no later than November 2020.

Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said that if a voluntary code of conduct wasn't adopted, the government would pursue a mandatory code.

“The Government will be seeking an update from the ACCC on the development of these codes by May and we're expecting that a voluntary code will be entered into by November,” he said.

The government has also agreed to review the Privacy Act, which the ACCC wants strengthened to give Australians greater power over how their information is collected. Initial action also includes the commencement of a staged process to reform media regulation towards an “end state of a platform-neutral regulatory framework covering both online and offline delivery” of media content to Australian consumers.

According to the document, several of the ACCC's recommendations align with existing commitments. These include the development of legislation for public consultation to increase penalties under the Privacy Act so it matches Australian Consumer Law and requires the development of a binding online privacy code.

The draft legislation on this will be released for consultation, and after consultation, be introduced to Parliament in 2020.

The government has supported, in varying degrees, 18 of the 23 recommendations covering privacy, competition and the state of the media landscape. It refused to support two of the ACCC's recommendations and noted the remainder.

The ACCC recommendations that were rejected included a mandatory take-down code to assist copyright enforcement on digital platforms and an overhaul of taxation settings to encourage philanthropic support for journalism.

The move toward legislative reform are in line with the stance Australian consumers hold on how digital platforms handle user tracking, data and privacy.

A recent survey by Which-50 found that 86% of consumers rejected the use of cookies to track them across the web. In addition, 92% of consumers said companies should not be allowed to track their online behaviour on the internet using a unique mobile phone device ID without their clear permission.

ABC, Mumbrella, Which-50, The Guardian