General online retail marketplaces are set to go under the microscope of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) in a new inquiry.
The ACCC is set to examine competition and consumer concerns with online retail marketplaces such as eBay Australia, Amazon Australia, Kogan and Catch as part of its inquiry into digital platform services in Australia.
The ACCC has put a call out to consumers, platforms and third-party sellers to inform its inquiry, inviting them to send submissions to the body.
Following a 57% boost in online shopping in 2020 which saw Aussies spend a record $50.5 billion online, ACCC chair Rod Sims said that the inquiry will help determine whether the online marketplaces are complying to the rules.
"These online marketplaces are an important and growing segment of the economy, so it is important that we understand how online marketplaces operate and whether they are working effectively for consumers and businesses.
"We want to be sure that the rules that apply to traditional retail are also complied with in the online context.
"We are keen to hear about the experiences of Australians, both consumers and businesses," he said.
The ACCC will consider pricing practices, the use of data, the terms and conditions imposed on third-party sellers, and the impacts on competition when the marketplace itself operates as a seller on the platform.
Key consumer issues to be considered include the ability of customers to leave and read reviews of sellers and products, how complaints are handled and how consumers’ data is collected and used.
The issues paper also looks at the services offered by the marketplaces, the market structures and the way the markets work.
"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 added.
"But we would expect the marketplace to operate fairly for businesses and consumers alike and comply with consumer laws and competition laws," he said.
The ACCC's Digital Platforms Branch is conducting the five-year inquiry into markets for the supply of digital platform services in Australia and their impacts, following a direction from the Treasurer.
This inquiry will report to the Treasurer every six months and will examine different forms of digital platform services, their advertising services as well as data brokers.
The surveys for consumers and small business sellers on general online retail marketplaces can be found at the ACCC consultation hub.
Submissions are due to the ACCC by August 19, with the final report provided to the Treasurer by March 31 2022.