The House of Lords has launched an enquiry into the digital advertising industry after heeding concerns that a lack of transparency and choice is making it difficult for advertisers to gauge value for money.

In a report published by the Select Committee on Communications, the Lords questioned the dominance of tech companies Facebook and Google in the digital advertising space after hearing complaints from the advertising industry that “Google alone has control at all levels of the market”.

“Businesses which buy advertising services don’t know how their money is being spent, whether their advertising is being displayed next to content which is obscene or which supports terrorism, or whether their ads are being viewed by a human being at all,” said Lord Gilbert of Panteg, the committee chairman.

The report also called on the Competition and Markets Authority to undertake a separate study of the digital advertising market to ensure that it is working fairly for both businesses and consumer, and urged the industry to “take greater steps to self-regulate” via independent bodies such as the Joint Industry Committee for Web Standards (JICWEBS).

“The consumer’s experience is also poor as they may be bombarded with clickbait, or their personal data may be exploited without their knowledge,” Panteg added; “To restore the public’s trust in advertising as a whole, the industry must commit to adhering to proper standards.”

“Notoriously murky”

Despite digital advertising becoming the most significant form of advertising by spend, adding £120 billion to the UK economy, Panteg said that the delivery of digital advertising to consumers has become “notoriously murky” – echoing comments made last year by P&G’s Marc Pritchard on the media supply chain being “murky at best”.

The report comes following controversial moves around personal data handling and third-party ad targeting, with both YouTube and Facebook making significant changes to policy standards.

However, some are even calling these updates a tactical move to take more control and limit advertiser opportunities, such as the case with Google on YouTube closing its third-party ad serving in Europe.

Adding to the report, the Lords is pushing for regulatory third parties to be assigned more authority to enforce “robust industry standards” on the measurement of effectiveness and third-party verification.