Website fail puts ASX monopoly under scrutiny

“This [incident] highlights how important it is for consumers to have access to information,” Mr Matheson said. “Market data is critical, it should not be a monopoly.”

He said Australia should consider re-regulating the ASX’s stranglehold over company announcements, similar to reforms in the UK which allow companies to choose between a range of organisations to lodge mandatory disclosures with, such as newswire services.

ASX client and broker OpenMarkets agreed the incident drew attention to the ASX’s problematic monopoly status. “The industry is concerned that ASX has too much power to dictate play and there isn’t much of an opportunity for competitors to create a diverse environment that will ultimately benefit customers,” said chief executive Ivan Tchourilov.

However, he said the market operator was right to make changes to its previous archaic website and that these long-term benefits for investors would outweigh the “unfortunate teething problems”.

John Daly, chief executive of markets information provider Listcorp, similarly had sympathy for the ASX, noting it was a “huge challenge” to launch a new website. “We’re happy to help keep investors informed while the ASX beds down their new site,” he said, having stepped in to publish all company announcements on the Listcorp website ahead of a busy week of annual general meetings.

But many individual investors were unconvinced that the website changes were for the better. “The new site hides share prices and company stats behind a login,” said one regular ASX visitor. “How is that a better user experience?”

Others speculated that the new login requirement may be commercially motivated on the part of the ASX, with fears that personal data may be sold or passed on to third parties.

An ASX spokesman clarified that there is no commercial model associated with the website and that revenue previously garnered from advertising had been abandoned, meaning it was more “independent” than its predecessor.

“ASX has significantly reduced the amount of data we collect and also provided additional functionality to opt-out of cookie tracking,” the spokesman said.

“The ASX website remains independent and free to the market,” the spokesman said. “We are incredibly strong on the use of customer data being limited only to the purposes for which is allowed.”

‘Fix it fast’

An error message displayed on the website and distributed on social media by the ASX on Monday apologised for the inconvenience and informed them that company announcements could still be accessed via “brokers or news agencies”.

But media professionals were among those lashing the ASX on Monday, following feedback from business journalists and regular website users that seemingly went ignored by the bourse.

David Langsam, editor of trade publication Biotech Daily, fired off an angry missive to his readers about the ASX’s “outstanding failure”, claiming he had warned the market operator about a “plethora of missing features” over the weekend before the previous website was shut down.

“These suggestions were ignored and today the new ASX website crashed with the result that no announcements were available,” Mr Langsam wrote. “We apologise if we have missed any news today.”

Crikey founder Stephen Mayne tweeted that he was “hating this new ASX website” and its login requirement. “Let’s hope they fix it fast,” he said.

The ASX spokesman said it the website had been beta tested by 300,000 users over a 12-month period and that it had made enhancements in response to user feedback. He added that it had received a “range of positive feedback” about the new website as well.

“We regret the issues from today and apologise for the disruption,” he said.

“Notwithstanding the issues with ASX’s public facing website, the market operated normally.”

An internal investigation into the technical difficulties is ongoing.

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