Australian watchdog investigates eBay and Amazon

Australia's anti-trust watchdog is examining competition and consumer concerns across general online retail marketplaces, including eBay and Amazon.

The investigation is part of the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission's (ACCC) wider inquiry into digital platform services in Australia.

The authority is to examine the marketplaces and their relationships with third-party sellers and consumers, as well as how these marketplaces affect competition in Australian markets.

More Australians are turning to online shopping due to the COVID-19 pandemic and associated lockdowns. Online purchases grew by 57 per cent in 2020 year-on-year, and Australians spent a record $50.5 billion online in 2020, compared with $27.5 billion in 2018. Non-food online sales accounted for 14.2 per cent of total non-food sales in May 2021, up from 10.9 per cent in February 2020.

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.

It will also look at the services offered by the marketplaces, the market structures and the way the markets work.

“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,” said ACCC chair Rod Sims. “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 added that while 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, the authority would “expect the marketplace to operate fairly for businesses and consumers alike and comply with consumer laws and competition laws.”

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