Australia’s digital advertising ecosystem and internet platforms will continue to face regulatory scrutiny well into the new decade, with two new ACCC probes announced this month. 

Following the conclusion of the ACCC’s 18 month-long investigation into Google and Facebook, this week Treasurer Josh Frydenberg directed the competition watchdog to conduct an 18-month inquiry into the adtech ecosystem as well as a five-year inquiry which will monitor the market impact of the digital platforms. 

In December 2017, the ACCC was directed by the government to examine the impact of digital platform services on the state of competition in media and advertising services markets. Responding to that inquiry’s final report in December, the government backed the ACCC’s recommendation for further inquiries into the advertising sector. 

The new digital platform services inquiry 2020 – 2025 covers internet search engine services, social media services, online private messaging services, digital content aggregation platform services, media referral services and electronic marketplace services.

It also covers digital advertising services supplied by digital platform service providers and the data practices of both digital platform service providers and data brokers. 

An interim report will be provided to the Treasurer on 30 September this year, followed by further interim reports every six months until the inquiry concludes with a final report to be provided to the Treasurer by 31 March 2025. 

Meanwhile, the digital advertising services inquiry will scrutinise the technologies which gather information about consumers and use it to target them with highly personalised advertising. The services provided by adtech vendors and digital advertising agencies will also be examined. 

The adtech inquiry will be completed by 31 August 2021, with an interim report to be released by 31 December 2020. An issues paper, which will provide further details on the inquiry’s area of focus, will be published next month. 

Matters to be considered by the 5 year Digital platform Services inquiry include:

  • the intensity of competition in markets for the supply of digital platform services, with particular regard to the concentration of power, the behaviour of suppliers, mergers and acquisitions, barriers to entry or expansion and changes in the range of services offered by suppliers of digital platform services
  • practices of suppliers in digital platform services markets which may result in consumer harm
  • market trends that may affect the nature and characteristics of digital platform services
  • developments in markets for the supply of digital platform services outside Australia.

Matters to be considered by the adtech inquiry include, but are not limited to:

  • the competitiveness and efficiency of markets for the supply of digital advertising technology services and digital advertising agency services
  • the availability to advertisers, publishers and other market participants of information on activities in those markets
  • the concentration of power in those markets
  • auction and bidding processes
  • the impact of mergers and acquisitions in those markets
  • the behaviour of suppliers in those markets
  • whether the corporate structures of suppliers, or contractual arrangements between suppliers and customers, have a negative effect on competition or informed decision making in those markets
  • the distribution of digital display advertising expenditure between publishers, digital advertising technology services providers and advertising agencies
  • how competition in those markets impacts on competition in the market for the supply of digital display advertising services.

 

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