ACCC launches inquiry into data broker services

Lack of transparency and consumer awareness prompts ACCC’s investigation

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has opened a call for submissions from consumers, businesses, and interested stakeholders regarding data broker services in Australia. This initiative is part of the ACCC’s ongoing five-year digital platform services inquiry, which aims to examine the practices of data brokers and the products and services they offer. The focus of the inquiry is on potential competition and consumer issues arising from the supply of data broker services.

In an issues paper published today, the ACCC seeks views and poses questions about the business practices of data brokers, as well as the nature of the products and services they create and provide. The ACCC Chair, Gina Cass-Gottlieb, highlighted the lack of transparency and awareness surrounding data brokers in Australia, despite the vast amount of information they collect about Australian consumers and their pivotal role in facilitating information exchange between businesses.

Data brokers gather information from various sources, including social media sites, internet and search services, apps, customer loyalty programs, card payment providers, and public records such as electoral rolls. The collected data encompasses a wide range of details, such as names, addresses, age, browsing behaviour, purchasing patterns, and socio-economic and demographic information.

Data brokers develop products and services such as audience profiling reports, consumer purchasing data, and risk and fraud management solutions for applications like tenancy or insurance assessments.

The ACCC’s inquiry specifically targets businesses that collect information from third-party sources and subsequently sell or share that data with other organizations (third-party data brokers). The focus does not extend to businesses that collect data from their own customers for internal use or for selling or sharing with others (first-party brokers).

Cass-Gottlieb emphasized that many Australian consumers may be unaware that their information is being collected, stored, and sold by third-party data brokers with whom they have no direct relationship. The inquiry aims to explore how these data brokers collect and utilize information to create products and services, while also examining potential competition and consumer issues that may arise.

The ACCC will evaluate the products and services offered by several data brokers, including CoreLogic, Equifax, Experian, Illion, LiveRamp, Nielsen, PropTrack, Oracle, and Quantium.

“We are eager to hear from data brokers, as well as consumers and businesses that interact with the data broker industry. We are also seeking to understand how data products and services can benefit small businesses,” stated Cass-Gottlieb.

Businesses involved in selling or providing data to data brokers, as well as those that purchase or use data broker products or services, are encouraged to respond to the issues paper by 7 August 2023. The ACCC intends to gather insights from a wide range of perspectives to inform its investigation into data broker practices in Australia.



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