UK asks competition watchdog to put adtech market review top of its to-do list

TechCrunch | 3/14/2019 | Staff
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The UK government has written to the country’s competition authority to ask the watchdog to respond to concerns about the lack of transparency in the digital advertising market and carry out a formal market study “as soon as possible”.

In a letter to the Competition and Markets Authority, chancellor Philip Hammond writes that the online ad sector “has been widely described as lacking transparency”.

Market - Study - Understanding - Existence - Nature

“A Market Study would provide greater understanding of the existence, nature and potential solutions to any problems within the digital advertising market, and would further develop understanding of the operation of platform markets which rely on digital advertising for revenue,” he continues. “It would also enhance the CMA’s ability to detect and assess digital mergers when these may be of concern.”

The government’s move follows the publication of an independent review of competition policy this week which recommended ministers ask the CMA to examine the market.

Furman - Review - Wider - Policy - Changes

The government-commissioned Furman review also called for wider policy changes to respond to competition and consumer problems created by ‘winner takes all’ tech platforms.

Hammond’s letter goes on to note that several UK parliamentary subcommittees have also called for regulatory scrutiny of online adtech practices in recent months, including the Digital Culture Media and Sport (DCMS) select committee, which called for the CMA to probe Facebook’s business practices.

Year - UK - Data - Watchdog - Pause

Last year the UK’s data watchdog also called for an ethical pause of online political advertising — warning of risks to democratic debate and trust.

Reached for a response to the government’s call for it to prioritize a market review of online advertising a spokesperson for the CMA pointed us to its response to the Furman review yesterday — in which it says it has also been considering whether to undertake work in the digital advertising market.

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