Preliminary anti-plagiarism software merger concerns
ACCC has preliminary antitrust concerns regarding Turnitin’s proposed acquisition of Ouriginal.
Turnitin and Ouriginal are international anti-plagiarism software providers that mainly overlap in the delivery of this software to college customers such as universities. They are two of only three providers of anti-plagiarism software in Australian universities.
Anti-plagiarism software is a tool used to scan student assignments as they are submitted to identify possible plagiarism. The software can search for matches from previous student submissions, academic journals, and web sites through their respective databases.
âTurnitin is by far the largest provider of this software to Australian universities. It contains a large cross-institutional database of reference material, including a significant number of student papers and academic journals, which are used to check submitted papers for plagiarism, âsaid ACCC Commissioner Stephen Ridgeway.
ACCC fears that the proposed acquisition could significantly reduce competition in an already highly concentrated market and result in higher prices or lower levels of service for the Australian higher education sector.
âOriginal, a large supplier in Europe, has far fewer customers in Australia than Turnitin. However, it is one of Turnitin’s only competitors in higher education and could become a major competitive force for Turnitin, âsaid Ridgeway.
“Some stakeholders have suggested that Ouriginal is cheaper and possibly has a more innovative product compared to Turnitin.”
ACCC is also considering the likelihood that other international software providers will enter or expand in Australia to compete with Turnitin. These vendors seem to face a variety of challenges in competing for Australian clients, including building a database of student papers and overcoming customer reluctance to move to new or unfamiliar vendors.
âThe barriers to entry in this market seem high, with strong network effects and economies of scale that Turnitin enjoys. What we’re focusing on here is whether Turnitin is buying out its most promising competitive threat to protect its position in the market, âsaid Ridgeway.
“Apart from Blackboards SafeAssign, no other anti-plagiarism software company has built a competitive presence in our higher education sector, especially among universities.”
ACCC is also concerned that the proposed acquisition could reduce Turnitin’s incentives to innovate with its products without future competition from Ouriginal.
âInnovation decisions are likely to be made on a global basis, taking into account a wider range of competitors who are not currently based in Australia. If the incentives to innovate are reduced globally, Australian customers can be negatively impacted, âsaid Ridgeway.
The ACCC has published a fact sheet available on the Public Register page and is seeking more information.
The ACCC asks for feedback on the presentation of the facts by September 27, 2021.
For more information, see ACCC’s public register here: Turnitin, LLC, through Turnitin UK Ltd., proposes to acquire Ouriginal Group AB. before
Turnitin provides educational software solutions such as plagiarism detection, grammar checking, grading and exam oversight in many countries including Australia. Ouriginal focuses on plagiarism detection. It is mainly active in Europe and recently also in parts of Asia.
Anti-plagiarism software is designed to detect plagiarism in its various forms. In Australia, it is mainly used in the education sector to combat the risk of plagiarism and thus help maintain academic integrity.
Anti-plagiarism software detects plagiarism by comparing a work with sources that can be private (e.g. databases of previous student contributions and scientific journal articles) or public (e.g. websites). Anti-plagiarism software providers are also developing tools to respond to newer forms of plagiarism such as contract fraud or ghostwriting.
The UK competition and market regulator approved the proposed acquisition on July 26, 2021.
âHigher Educationâ refers primarily to Australian universities and institutions registered with the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Authority (TEQSA). ACCC believes that only a small fraction of VET organizations registered with the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) would use anti-plagiarism software.
Turnitin LLC is based in the United States but aims to complete this acquisition through Turnitin UK Ltd (Turnitin). Ouriginal, based in Sweden, emerged from the merger of Urkund and PlagScan in 2019.