France to probe Google and Facebook

France’s competition authority may open investigations into Facebook and Google “in the next few months” after an in-depth examination concluded the pair dominate the French online advertising market.

The regulator said it was considering a full inquiry amid growing scrutiny from European authorities of the biggest internet companies, whose size and sway over data collection have rapidly made them advertising giants.

“What is clear is the overwhelmingly dominant position of Google and Facebook,” president of the French competition body, Isabelle de Silva, said.

The authority’s report highlighted that the two companies acted as publishers and technical intermediaries for advertisers, giving them a competitive advantage.

Facebook and Google accounted for 76% of internet ad spending outside China in 2016, a report by Publicis agency Zenith found. The situation is the same in France, where the internet has become the number one vehicle for advertisers, ahead of television, with more than a third of total ad spending in 2017, up 3.4 percentage points from 2016.

“We’ve seen many players complain about certain behaviours,” de Silva said, referring to meetings the authority had with French advertisers, service providers and publishers.

These include strategies involving bundling or tied sales, low prices, discriminatory treatment and restrictions on the possibilities of collecting and accessing certain data.

Any investigation takes about two years to reach a conclusion and any sanction.

n Reuters

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