Duopoly braced for new probe of ad market dominance

digital1The Competition & Markets Authority (CMA) is set to publish its initial findings into the dominance of Google and Facebook in the £13bn UK digital ad market, in a move which could trigger a full-blown investigation and with it potential sanctions.

The CMA launched a market study into the online duoploy in July. Its initial findings, due to be published this week, will spark a consultation period.

The regulator is expected to lay out a series of recommendations to the Government on how to counteract potential harm from a lack of competition in the market, with the use of personal data a key factor.

According to reports, the watchdog is expected to suggest legal and political routes to level the playing field. It has previously suggested that tech firms should be forced to stop sharing data across their businesses.

In a submission to the CMA, the independent research firm Arete said: “Since YouTube inventory can only be purchased through Google’s DoubleClick platforms, Google can effectively determine the clearing price of certain types of inventory. In this way, Google ‘runs’ a rigged ad market.”

A CMA spokesperson said: “The CMA is due to publish a wide ranging report as part of its ongoing market study into online platforms and digital advertising. At this point, we are also legally required to consult on whether to make a market investigation.

“As we said at the launch of our study, it is likely that one of the final outcomes from the market study is a series of recommendations to government based on our findings.”

Earlier this month, the European Commission launched a preliminary inquiry over whether Google and Facebook’s data practices comply with EU law. Meanwhile, the Irish Data Protection Commission has a raft of investigations into Facebook over potential breaches of GDPR, including an imminent ruling on WhatsApp.

Both Google and Facebook are also the subject of antitrust investigations across more than 47 states in the US.

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