Facebook and ACCC's Rod Sims face off over anti-competitive claims


It echoes comments from Facebook’s response to the inquiry which was submitted just days earlier saying the year and a half process made “no clear finding of anti-competitive conduct” but still managed to reach the conclusion that the group is a “threat to competition”.

Responding to questions from the audience about Facebook’s claim, Mr Sims on Monday said it was hard to find something you weren’t looking for.

“I just find it extraordinary that I’m still running into this issue,” he said. “This was an inquiry not an investigation” and was designed to make recommendations not gather evidence for prosecution.

He said the inquiry did identify five matters that are now the subject of an “indepth investigation” without offering further detail. The news of these investigations first came to light in the ACCC’s final report on the digital platforms inquiry in July.

Last month, Mr Sims said the five cases against Facebook and Google, which includes four consumer law cases, are well advanced and the regulator expects to make a decision on whether to launch legal action before the end of the year.

The cases include whether Facebook breached consumer law by allowing users’ data to be shared with third parties and whether Google has collated users’ location data illegally.

If that is the dominant message, that is stunning.

ACCC Chairman, Rod Sims

“The effect is that if [Facebook and Google] are taken to court and it’s found that one particular behaviour is wrong or illegal, then that’s actually behaviour they can’t do again,” Mr Sims said at the time.

Facebook declined to respond to Mr Sim’s comments on Monday, referring instead to the September 15 blog by Ms Garlick which warned of the “high economic and social costs of unsuitable or unworkable internet regulation”.

“In our submission to the Australian government on the Digital Platforms Inquiry, we have proposed constructive solutions to help work towards a smart regulatory framework for the future of the internet,” Ms Garlick said.

Submissions to Treasury on the final report of the Digital Platforms Inquiry closed September 12, but the government has yet to make any of them public.

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“Treasury along with the Attorney-General’s Department and the Department of Communications and the Arts will hold targeted consultation meetings after the close of submissions,” the Treasury’s website says.

The lobby group representing Facebook, Google, Verizon Media and Twitter has made its submission public. The group warned that rules to stop the spread of fake news recommended by the competition watchdog could leave websites and regulators acting as gatekeepers of truth online.

Digital Industry Group Inc’s (DIGI) submission also opposed additional scrutiny on mergers and acquisitions made by the digital platforms saying it could potentially discouraging local tech start-ups.

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