ACCC to examine Amazon, eBay, Kogan and other marketplaces

The operations of Amazon Australia, eBay Australia, Kogan and Catch.com.au will be closely scrutinised by Australia’s competition watchdog as part of an examination of online retail marketplaces.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) said it will explore how online retail marketplaces impact competition in Australia.

The ACCC has called for submissions from consumers and the retail industry to assist in its inquiry, which falls under the umbrella of its broader, ongoing examination of digital platform services.

The online retail marketplace inquiry is set to investigate marketplaces and their relationships with third-party sellers and consumers, as well as how these marketplaces impact competition.

The watchdog said it will consider pricing practices, data usage, third-party conditions for sellers and “the impacts on competition when the marketplace itself operates as a seller on [its own] platform”.

The ACCC will also look into a consumer’s ability to leave reviews, and examine complaints handling procedures.

“While general online retail marketplaces provide benefits to sellers and consumers, concerns have been raised to the ACCC about the conduct of some marketplaces and the risk of harm to both sellers and consumers,” an issues paper states [pdf].

“These include concerns relating to the display of seller goods and timeliness of payments for sellers; and for consumers, the level of support provided by marketplaces when disputes arise as well as goods quality issues.”

The ACCC said it is aware of possible future risks from online marketplaces given the ability to “perform a gatekeeper role, enabling them to exercise a degree of market power” and potentially put upwards pressure on prices.

The ACCC added international marketplaces will also fall under the investigation and “are subject to close scrutiny”.

ACCC chair Rod Sims said online marketplaces are important to economic growth and the regulator “wants to be sure that the rules that apply to traditional retail are also complied with in the online context”.

“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.”

The ACCC will submit its final report to the Treasurer by the end of March 2022 following its examination of general online retail marketplaces.

This is the fourth report to be submitted to the Treasurer relating to digital platform services inquiry.

The third and most recent report dealt with choice screens for search services and web browsers.