ACCC Digital advertising services inquiry interim report – Proposals for Consultation

Posted by Jonas Jaanimagi On January 28, 2021 policy

ACCC – Proposals for Consultation

There are 6 key proposals that the ACCC are seeking feedback to from today’s released ACCC’s Digital advertising services inquiry interim report, which are highlighted below within the notes in bold red.

Written submissions in response to the interim report should be emailed to adtechinquiry@accc.gov.au by Friday 26th February 2021.

We have also prepared a summary of the Questions for Stakeholders


The ACCC is considering two proposals to reduce data-related barriers to entry and expansion and to promote competition in the supply of ad tech services:

o Proposal 1: measures aimed at increasing data portability and interoperability, such as a common user ID, which should be implemented with effective mechanisms for individuals to control the processing of their personal data.

o Proposal 2: mechanisms to mandate the separation of datasets of large incumbents, such as data silos or purpose limitation requirements.

<><><><><><><><><><><><><><> 

o Proposal 3: rules to manage conflicts of interest and self-preferencing in the supply of ad tech services.

The ACCC is considering whether rules should be introduced that would aim to prevent and manage the competition and other issues that can arise from vertical integration. In particular such rules could aim to prevent anti-competitive self-preferencing and manage conflicts of interest. The high-level obligations which could be covered by these rules include:

  • requirements to put measures in place to manage conflicts of interest, such as preventing the sharing of information between ad tech services, or obligations to act in the best interest of publisher or advertiser customers.
  • requirements to provide equal access to ad tech services (i.e. level playing field obligations to prevent self-preferencing).
  • requirements to increase the transparency of the operation of the supply chain.

<><><><><><><><><><><><><><> 

Transparency of the price, operation and performance of ad tech services

Key findings:

  • The opacity and complexity of the ad tech supply chain makes it difficult for advertisers and publishers to fully understand how it operates. It also means that they are reliant on information provided by ad tech providers, and sometimes third parties, to assess the price and quality of ad tech services. The ACCC is concerned that these factors may be limiting competition and efficient outcomes in the supply of ad tech services. There are three areas where a lack of transparency is an issue.
  1. First, there appears to be a lack of transparency over the operation and outcomes of some auctions. In particular, it appears that publishers are not able to obtain sufficient information about auction outcomes from Google to make fully informed decisions about how they should use ad tech services.
  2. Secondly, there is a lack of transparency over the level of fees or ‘take rates’ across the supply chain. This makes it difficult for advertisers to know how much of their ad spend is received by publishers, and for publishers to know how much advertisers are paying for their inventory.

ACCC considers that this may:

o reduce confidence in the operation of ad tech services

o prevent advertisers and publishers making decisions about how to most efficiently buy or sell ad inventory

o make it difficult to monitor whether vertically integrated providers are engaging in self preferencing conduct or retaining ‘undisclosed fees’.

While there has been some recent work to improve industry understanding of the levels of fees across the supply chain, publishers and advertisers still do not always have the information necessary to undertake the type of detailed consideration of fees necessary to optimise buying and selling decisions.

  1. Thirdly, in some cases there are issues with advertisers’ ability to assess and compare the performance of the ad tech services they use. In particular some stakeholders are concerned that it is difficult for advertisers to assess some aspects of the performance of Google’s demand-side services and compare these with those of other providers.
  • Concerns have also been raised about whether ad verification and attribution services used by demand-side platforms to understand the performance of servicers operate in a way that may harm publishers by blocking their websites, and whether sufficient action is taken by the industry to combat the delivery of scam ads. The scale of these issues is not clear, but they may raise concerns because verification and attribution providers, and demand-side platforms may not have incentives to address such problems.

The ACCC is considering, and seeking stakeholder feedback on, the following proposals which could be used to address the issues identified in this chapter:

 o Proposal 4: the implementation of a voluntary standard to enable full, independent verification of DSP services.

o Proposal 5: the implementation of a common transaction ID. Industry should implement a common system whereby each transaction in the ad tech supply chain is identified with a single identifier which allows a single transaction to be traced through the entire supply chain. This should be done in a way that protects the privacy of consumers.

o Proposal 6: the implementation of a common user ID to allow tracking of attribution activity in a way which protects consumers’ privacy.