Push for crucial change to your phone

 

The consumer watchdog is pushing to limit Google's dominance on smartphones by giving Aussies other options for search engines.

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 questioning whether the government should compel Google to offer "choice screens" to Android users in Australia after European consumers were given the option.

Choice screens give users a selection of internet search services on mobiles and tablets, rather than a preselected search service.

 

Manufacturers usually supply desktops, tablets and mobiles with a preinstalled operating system, including a web browser.

Web browsers often select a default search service, which is embedded within the browser.

The Google Chrome browser is preinstalled 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.

"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."

The ACCC on Thursday released an issues paper, which it is asking smartphone users and industry participants to respond to by April 15. It will take the responses as part of its final report to the government in September.

The issues paper examines the extent to which consumers are harmed by default search engine arrangements and whether Google's choice screen rollout in Europe is fit for Australia.

Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chair Rod Sims has Google in his sights. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Gary Ramage
Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chair Rod Sims has Google in his sights. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Gary Ramage

"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.

"We would like to hear from consumers and businesses about the impact of the pre-installation of services and default settings on devices on their use of these services.

"We're also interested in how the design of user interfaces on devices, such as widgets, search bars, and the steps required for a consumer to change a default search service, can affect how consumers use these services."

Originally published as Push for crucial change to your phone



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