Small business protection required for the online world

Updated: Small business council implies possible collusion between Google and traditional retailers to strongarm online operators

Small businesses operating online require contractual and regulatory protection from potential collusion between traditional retailers and online magnates such as Google, according to the Council of Small Business of Australia (COSBOA).

COSBOA executive director, Peter Strong, told attendees of the Federal Government's Online Retail Forum that the industry body feared moves by bricks-and-mortar retailers to push out small businesses could easily translate to the online world.

"At the moment in the real world, Centro and Westfields and councils get together and make sure everyone has to shop in those places," he said.

"We're concerned that might happen on the web as well... people say it's happening already."

Strong implied such moves could directly involve Google and other search engines altering search algorithms to preference larger retailers at their request, squeezing out smaller businesses attempting to circumvent traditional measures to make profits online.

"If China can stop people looking at things, so can we and so can Westfields," he said.

Small business minister, Senator Nick Sherry, told Computerworld Australia that the issue would likely be dealt with in the recently opened inquiry into the online retail sector by the Productivity Commission.

Strong's comments came as a group of successful online businesses engaged in a panel discussion at the forum to contemplate the benefits of online retailing.

Mike Knapp, co-founder of online shoe retailer Shoes of Prey, said the business had been born out of a search for a unique niche industry that could be sold directly to customers.

"One of the key learnings for us is that if you try to sell other people's brands... it becomes a race to the bottom... in terms of price on the internet," he said.

The company has embraced PayPal "one hundred per cent", leaving Knapp to warn major Australian banks that their lack of innovation and speed in payment collections were pushing small businesses online for almost every aspect of the sales chain.

However, Cameron Poolman, group managing director of auction site Grays Online, said that even in the online world, the small Australian consumer effectively meant there was no room for a second best.

"You've got to be the cheapest or thereabouts to sell your product," he said. Nevertheless, online retailers' ability to collect vast amounts of consumer knowledge ultimately provided a leg up in competition with traditional retailers.

The retail forum, established by the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, is part of a wider ploy by the government to focus on e-commerce and Australia's digital economy, a strategy that also includes new legislation to promote business involvement online.

Follow James Hutchinson on Twitter: @j_hutch

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Online Retail Forume-commerce

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

James Hutchinson

Computerworld
Show Comments

Essentials

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?