Australia’s competition regulator and consumer watchdog, the ACCC, has recommended new laws for digital platforms such as Google, Facebook and Amazon as it has identified “widespread, entrenched and systematic” consumer and competition “harms”.

The recommendation came as the ACCC released its fifth progress report on digital platforms since it began an inquiry in 2017.

The report proposes industry-specific legislation that will require digital platforms to combat scams, harmful apps and fake reviews, among other measures.

That’s after, the ACCC and other agencies observed a “significant and sustained increase” in scams on digital platforms targeting consumers, including those experiencing vulnerability.

“Digital platforms that host or otherwise act as intermediaries between scammers and their victims are in a unique position to identify and stop scams and remove harmful apps,” ACCC chair Gina Cass-Gottlieb said.

She also said that more action was needed to tackle fake reviews from platforms whose services featured ratings and reviews, including those appearing on search, social media, app stores and online marketplaces.

“These problems have been made worse by a lack of avenues for dispute resolution for consumers and small businesses, who often simply give up on seeking redress because they cannot get the digital platforms to properly consider the problem,” Cass-Gottlieb added.

Under the proposals, digital platforms would be required to verify business users like advertisers, app developers and merchants; and their review verification processes would have to be public.

The ACCC also recommended a digital platform ombudsman scheme to support users’ access to dispute resolution.

Adam Zuchowski is a disputes lawyer and principal at Sutton Laurence King Lawyers.

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