The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is asking for submissions from smartphone users and industry participants to inform a report it will hand to the federal government in September, which will examine the fairness of competition among search engines in handheld devices.
The ACCC is considering whether to limit Google’s dominance on smartphones by providing other options for search engines. After the EU offered ‘search choice’ screens to Android users, the government is considering giving Australians the same option.
Choice screens give users a selection of internet search services on mobiles and tablets, rather than a preselected search service. Normally manufacturers supply desktops, tablets and mobiles with a preinstalled operating system, including a web browser. The web browsers often select a default search service, which is embedded within the browser.
The Google Chrome browser is pre-installed on nearly all Android devices while Google Search is the default option on Google Chrome and Apple’s Safari mobile browsers, making it the default search on more than 95 per cent of mobile devices.
“Google should provide Australian users of Android devices with the same options being rolled out to existing Android users in Europe; that is, the ability to choose their default search engine and default internet browser from a number of options,” a 2019 ACCC report read.
The report goes on to say, “If Google does not introduce similar options for Australian Android users by six months from the date of the report, the ACCC will submit to the government that it should consider compelling Google to offer this choice.”
“We know that, in general, setting a default option substantially increases the likelihood that consumers and businesses will stick with that option. This can have the effect of reducing competition and consumer choice in the supply of these services,” ACCC chair Rod Sims said.
The report will be submitted in April with the final review scheduled for September of this year. If the government agrees, the changes could be put in place after that time.