Australia’s competition watchdog called for new laws to better govern the growing power of the five largest global digital platforms, warning the increasing reach via multiple interconnected products and services raises the risks of hurting competition and consumers.

A report by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), the seventh in its digital platform services inquiry, argued the continued expansion of Amazon, Apple, Google, Meta and Microsoft into emerging technologies and other markets demonstrates the critical need for regulatory reform.

ACCC chair Gina Cass-Gottlieb explained in a statement the expansion increased the risk of the platforms engaging in “harmful behaviour, such as invasive data collection practices and consumer lock-in practices that can reduce choice and stifle innovation.”

As the digital economy evolves and the ecosystems of digital platforms continue to expand, she added “we must be equipped with the appropriate regulatory tools to ensure effective competition in these markets.”

Proposed reforms include targeted consumer protections and service-specific codes to prevent anti-competitive conduct by digital platforms.

In March, ACCC opened an inquiry into the widening reach of services from the five digital platform providers as part of a five-year investigation.

Based on an ACCC report in examining digital platform services, the government in 2020 prepared a binding code to address what it claims is an imbalance in power between news media businesses and digital platforms. The law aimed to encourage Google and Facebook to negotiate deals with local publishers for their content.