The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) has put up its hand to tackle complaints about digital platforms.
The TIO’s stance comes from a February submission it made to Treasury, which was made public in late March, on a consultation following an inquiry into digital platforms by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).
The TIO said the inquiry found that there was the “lack of an independent umpire” for digital platforms – encompassing social media or online communication apps and internet search engines – and that this was a “significant gap in the consumer protection and regulatory framework”.
As such, the TIO claimed it could be that umpire, according to ombudsman Cynthia Gebert, especially as the agency already receives complaints about digital platforms, but it cannot assist with them due to not being related to the telco industry.
“This convergence of telecommunications and digital platforms means people now make calls and send texts through phone apps like WhatsApp and Messenger, they do business through social media platforms like Instagram and advertise on Google,” she said.
“My office is already hearing about problems with digital platform services from people and small businesses who assume we are the right body to respond to these complaints.
“The TIO is ready to expand its remit to take complaints about digital platforms, either through a pilot or as a permanent part of our jurisdiction.”
Her stance, she added, comes from the claims that the body has the expertise to help consumers and digital platforms find resolutions with complaints, as well as highlight “systemic improvements that can create meaningful change”.
Digital platforms have been scrutinised in Australia over the last few years, with the ACCC proposing rules and regulations to curb concerns about the dominance of Apple and Google in app marketplaces back in 2021.