French watchdog directs Meta to change its discriminatory ad verification criteria

On May 4th, the French competition watchdog, l’Autorité de la concurrence, issued interim measures against Meta for discrimination in its ad verification criteria. The provisional decision followed an October 2022 complaint from Adloox, a company which provides ad verification services. The initial outlined abusive conditions for accessing Meta’s “viewability” and “brand safety” partnerships, which describe mechanisms for verifying an ad has been presented to the target audience and ensuring that those ads are not presented in such a way which might harm the values of the brand in question.

These partnerships formed in 2015 and 2019, respectively might seem crucial for a buyer of Facebook’s ad inventory, but are, in fact, restricted by invitation. To date, Meta has only named three viewability partners (DoubleVerify, Integral Ad Science and Oracle MOAT) and three brand safety partners (DoubleVerify, Integral, and Zefr).

Understanding the efficacy of clients’ campaigns and safeguarding against the association of their brands with inappropriate content is clearly highly useful for any ad intermediary. Thus, by depriving the majority of the market from accessing these analytics, advantage naturally accrues to Facebook’s limited partners. In a press release, l’Autorité de la concurrence noted that Adloox had lost significant market share to above-mentioned companies.

The French authority has given Meta two months to publish new rules for accessing viewability and brand safety partnerships to replace its current “opaque procedure”.

We would encourage the French regulator or any other to investigate the analogous process which Google has implemented, which likewise seems to limit the number of third-party ad intermediaries able to provide a reporting offering: Third-party vendors integrated with Ads Data Hub  |  Google Developers