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Digital Display-Ad Sector May Face Crackdown as France Wades In

  • Gaspard Sebag
  • May 25 2016, 6:30am EDT

(Bloomberg) -- The digital display-advertising sector -- led in the U.S. by Facebook Inc., Google and Twitter Inc. -- faces a potential antitrust crackdown as French regulators start an inquiry with a view to publishing final findings in the second half of next year.

Months after Germany’s antitrust agency began investigating Facebook’s control over the private data of millions of users, the French Competition Authority will zoom in on the importance of data and algorithms in the online display-advertising sector, according to a statement released Monday.

The sale of banner ads and other online display ads have reached $32.2 billion, and is set to overtake search ad expenditure in the U.S. for the first time, according to eMarketer. Facebook’s U.S. digital display ad revenues were set to reach about $8.5 billion this year with Google trailing behind with sale of around $3.8 billion, according to eMarketer. Facebook, Google and Twitter representatives didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

The French Competition Authority’s report should feed into a public consultation aimed at gathering views of advertisers, publishers, automated exchanges for online display advertising and companies specializing in providing and exploiting data in this sector, according to Bruno Lasserre, the head of the French antitrust body.

The findings could lead to recommendations for new laws or advice for companies to modify their behavior, Lasserre told reporters. Individual antitrust probes may be opened if warranted, he said.

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