Washington, DC – American consumers across the political spectrum are concerned about the increasing power and lack of accountability of online platforms such as Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon, and a clear majority support some form of government regulation of the companies.
Consumer Reports conducted the nationally representative online survey of 3,219 adult U.S residents this summer to assess their experiences and opinions about online platforms. The report, “Platform Perceptions: Consumer Attitudes on Competition and Fairness in Online Platforms,” was issued by the Digital Lab at Consumer Reports. Here’s a look at the findings:
- A majority of consumers—about 6 out of 10—support more government regulation of platforms (60%) and mandating interoperability features (61%) to deal with the growing power of large online platforms that may be hurting competition and consumers.
- 79% of Americans say Big Tech mergers and acquisitions unfairly undermine competition and consumer choice.
- 65% say platforms should be held accountable for the products and services sold on their platforms.
- 74% believe companies should be required to take more responsibility for evaluating information before it’s shared on their platforms.
- 46% have difficulty distinguishing between what is a paid ad and objective search result, and 58% are not confident that they are getting objective and unbiased search results when using an online platform to shop or search for information;
- 85% of Americans are either very concerned or somewhat concerned about the amount of data online platforms store about them.
- 81% of Americans are either very concerned or somewhat concerned that platforms are collecting and holding this data about consumers in order to build out more comprehensive consumer profiles.
“This survey shows that Americans are alarmed about the negative impact that a handful of giant technology platforms are having on their daily lives,” said George Slover, senior policy counsel at Consumer Reports. “Consumers can see firsthand the harms these companies are causing, and recognize that it is denying them the range of quality choices for products and services at fair prices.”
These findings come at a critical time, as the House Judiciary Committee prepares to issue its report on its year-long investigation into the state of competition in the online marketplace.
Jonathan Schwantes, senior policy counsel for Consumer Reports, added, “These findings are clear. Americans are frustrated with the behavior of these massive technology companies. Because these companies have demonstrated an unwillingness to hold themselves accountable, consumers want policymakers to take action to rein in the power of these platforms.”
Laurel Lehman, policy analyst at Consumer Reports, noted, “Americans are not only concerned about the impact these massive companies have on the marketplace, but also about the harms they have on society. The collection of personal data, too often without the permission or even awareness of the user, and the inability of these companies to take responsibility for content that is shared on their platforms, raises serious ethical questions about these platforms. ”
In April, Consumer Reports submitted a letter to the House Judiciary Committee with perspectives on whether current antitrust laws are up to the challenges of protecting competition and consumer choice in this marketplace, whether improvements to those laws might be needed, and what else might be needed to supplement them.
The Digital Lab, founded in 2019, develops new ways to test and report on digital products and services. It is a key driver of Consumer Reports’ work to build a fair and just marketplace that puts consumers’ interests first.
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