Australian government puts Google in its crosshairs and puts Apple under the microscope to investigate default search engine deal

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is investigating the impact of Google being the dominant web search engine on most devices, including Apple’s Safari. The agency is trying to find the link between which browsers and search engines consumers opt for and are also trying to identify the link to default apps on operating systems like iOS 14 and macOS Big Sur.

The Australian agency is asking for industry and consumer submissions on the state of default settings, pre-installed web browsers, and how it impacts consumer freedom, competition, and choice. In a discussion paper PDF, a number of questions were posed like how does the competition co-exist between the two tech firms.

apple - Australian agency

Australian agency investigates Google and Apple browser domination

First spotted by ZDNet, the report claims that Apple’s Safari browser is the most common search engine utilized in Australia, making up for 51% of use. Google Chrome makes up about 39%, Samsung Internet sums up at 7%, and Mozilla Firefox stands somewhere around 1%.

The ACCC said it’s concerned with the impact of pre-installation and default settings on consumer choice and competition, particularly in relation to online search and browsers. It’s also seeking views on supplier behaviour and trends in search services, browsers, and operating systems, and device ecosystems that may impact the supply of search and browsers to Australian consumers.

Google was accused of anticompetitive behavior last year by the United States Department of Justice. As part of the case, it was revealed that Google pays almost $12 billion per year to Apple in exchange for making Chrome the default search engine for Safari. The lawsuit claimed that these shady side deals make it extremely hard for competing for search engines to grow and compete given the advantage both the tech giants carry.

Australian Competition and Consumer Commission Safari

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chair Rod Sims says that even though the consumers can change the search engine to other providers besides Google, the default option “increases the likelihood that consumers and businesses will stick with that option.” According to Sims, the agency wants to hear directly from the people about how these default choices impact the use of their services.

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.

As part of their upcoming report “on the impact of default settings and pre-installation of search engines and web browsers on consumer choice and competition” the agency is requesting feedback from users. Though the Australian agency has yet to officially launch the investigation into the matter.

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About the Author

Usman has been playing games for as long as he can remember. He is an editor at iThinkDifferent and writes about games, Apple news, hardware, productivity guides, and more. When not writing for iTD, Usman loves to play competitive Team Fortress 2, spends time honing his football skills, and watches superhero movies.

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