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Aussie watchdog seeks new powers to level the ad tech playing field

Aussie watchdog seeks new powers to level the ad tech playing field

The ACCC chair wants to align new rules with international partners

The chair of Australia’s competition watchdog is predicting a more competitive ad market within three years should the regulator be granted new powers to curb what it sees as anticompetitive conduct by Google. “It would no longer be a market completely, or largely, controlled by Google,” Rod Sims, the chair of the ACCC, told the publication Mi3.

His comments follow the release of the ACCC’s final report on the state of the digital advertising market in Australia, which was published on Tuesday. The report found that Google dominated the ad tech supply chain in the country thanks to its “vertical integration and strength.” In 2020, the report estimated that over 90 percent of ad impressions traded via the supply chain “passed through at least one Google service.”

Google responded to the inquiry stating that its services help businesses, publishers and consumers, and says it’s a key contributor to the Australian economy. However, the tech giant said it would continue to collaborate with the industry and regulators "to support a healthy ads ecosystem."

In light of the findings, the watchdog is seeking new regulatory powers to address the competition concerns it outlined. Sims suggests it could take up to three years for the broader ad-tech space to change if the ACCC is granted the new powers it seeks. In the shorter term, he is pushing for YouTube inventory to be made available to the open market by the end of next year, he told Mi3. This could have global implications. “We’re going to come out with this late next year, once we’ve done a lot of work with our overseas colleagues, trying to align ourselves, but you could have a rule that prevents Google from making YouTube inventory only available through Google ad tech. Then they couldn't do that anymore. So immediately you take away that big advantage Google's got,” Sims said.

Similar rules are being developed in the U.K. and Europe. Sims says a healthy ad tech ecosystem is in everyone’s interests and wants to ensure that “these rules are aligned between countries,” he told Reuters in an interview.

In a statement (alongside others from the Australian media industry), The Trade Desk has welcomed the ACCC’s report and recommendations. “The Trade Desk absolutely believes in the power of the open internet to fuel an important diversity of ideas, content and commerce, that is vital to the functioning of a healthy, competitive economy and society,” it said.