(By Darrell Choong and Amelia Edwards)
On 10 March 2020, the ACCC announced its inquiry into the digital advertising technology supply chain and advertising agency services in Australia. This inquiry follows on from the findings of the ACCC’s Digital Platforms inquiry which concluded in July last year, with the ACCC currently seeking views and feedback from stakeholders in the digital advertising market.
What will this inquiry focus on?
The ACCC has sought information from stakeholders about:
- Whether market participants have enough information to make informed choices about the use of the services of ad agencies and ad tech services;
- Competition throughout the ad tech supply chain and in the supply of ad agency services;
- The role and use of data in supplying such services; and
- Whether competition and efficiency are being affected by supplier behaviour.
The ACCC has broken down digital advertising into three categories: search advertising (such as advertising through search engines), classified advertising (such as Gumtree or Seek), and display advertising (a more general category for online advertising such as banner advertising on webpages and social media content).
Focus on data and digital platforms
The inquiry’s focus on data is particularly interesting, and it reflects a growing awareness by the ACCC of the importance of data to businesses and the value of data, whether it be personal data or meta data. This shift towards digital platforms and user data can be seen through recent developments.
For instance, in October last year, the ACCC brought court proceedings against Google for misleading and deceptive conduct in relation to the collection, retention and use of user location data on the Android smartphone platform.
Subsequently, in its December 2019 report on Customer Loyalty Schemes, ACCC lambasted the insufficient transparency and meaningful consumer control over the collection, use and disclosure of consumer data.
More recently, the ACCC has announced that one of its 2020 Regulatory and Compliance priorities would be competition and consumer issues relating to digital platforms.
To corroborate this focus, the ACCC stated in its Issues Paper on the ad-tech inquiry that it was seeking feedback in issues arising from:
- unequal access to data;
- conduct that limits competitor access to data;
- a lack of transparency in how suppliers deal with consumer and other data; and
- terms and conditions offered by suppliers of ad tech services and ad agency services.
What it means for businesses
Since the launch of the ad-tech inquiry, the ACCC has announced a shift in its regulatory focus towards the issues arising out of the covid-19 situation. However, the ACCC will most likely be revisiting the inquiry in the future as the ACCC has also stated that its 2020 Compliance and Enforcement Priorities (particularly regarding digital platforms) would remain in place. This statement strongly suggests that the ACCC will be refocussing its resources back towards digital platforms and data following the abatement of the covid-19 situation.
KHQ can help
Even though the ACCC is focussing the bulk of its resources towards combatting competition and consumer issues arising out of COVID-19, it does not mean that you should be lax with regards to digital platforms and the usage and collection of data in your business.
If you are an advertising and media agency, an ad tech services company, or otherwise deal with consumer data and want to know what the ACCC’s inquiry and regulatory stance will mean for your business, please do not hesitate to contact a member of the Corporate & Commercial team.