A sector inquiry focused on the online advertising

​In May 2016, the French Competition Authority (FCA) initiated a sector inquiry on online advertising, (and more specifically on data processing), in view to assess the competitive situation on this market.


This initiative follows a number of other initiatives launched by the European Commission or other Member States in the online sector (see the European Commission’s Report on e-commerce sector inquiry and our elexica article on Further enforcement action expected following publication of European Commission’s Final Report on e-commerce sector inquiry, another report on online booking platforms and the UK Competition and Markets Authority (CMA‘s report on digital comparison tools and our elexica article The EU and the UK publish online findings.)

Significant changes in the online advertising sector

The FCA has gathered information from different participants such as advertisers, publishers or service providers. The FCA also questioned Facebook and Google, due to their position closely related to online advertising.

Several trends have been identified so far:

  • the increase of the number of operators, notably due to the emergence of intermediaries between publishers and advertisers such as Ad Networks and Ad Exchanges
  • the significant role of data in improving the targeting of customers and increasing the value of the advertising, increasing thereby the advertisers’ willingness to pay, and
  • the development of the supervised automation of campaigns, enabling automatic match of adverting demand and offer in several forms of advertising (not only in the research-related advertising form used by Google).

These features may explain the high turnover achieved in the advertising sector and specifically in the display (advertisement displayed on a website or a mobile app) and social advertising sector, whereas media is globally affected by a downturn in investments and turnover.


On 11 July 2017, the FCA has gone a step further in launching a public consultation. This consultation aims to understand better the offers and technologies, obtaining details regarding some behaviours adopted by operators, and clarifying points subject to conflicting statements previously received. Some operators who had not been previously interviewed will now be.

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