Company “genuinely did not know where to start”
The UK’s competition watchdog has slapped ad tech firm AppNexus with a £20,000 fine for missing a regulatory filing deadline because its lawyers were on holiday.
AppNexus had been asked by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) to furnish its response to a CMA market study into the digital advertising sector. The company had an initial deadline of August 23, 2019; later pushed back to September 6.
AppNexus told the CMA that the deadline might “prove extremely challenging” as it only had “two lawyers in Europe and it is the holiday season”.
It then bought itself three deadline extensions, all of which it missed, after complaining that “the questionnaire… has completely disrupted our business and operations.”
Despite being treated with apparent disdain, the CMA still declined to fine the company the maximum £30,000 it is able to, under section 174A of the Enterprise Act 2002.
The CMA said: “On 4 September 2019 AppNexus contacted the CMA to request an extension for responding to the Notice until 27 September 2019.
“The reasons given were the fact that AppNexus are a ‘global organisation’ therefore having ‘inherently … several phases of review which we are obliged to undertake in these types of government mandated requests’.
“That it was ‘the holiday season not only in Europe but in the US too’, that the ‘first draft currently sits with stakeholders in the opposite time zone, and the… implications of ‘not providing a full and accurate response’.
After missing several more deadlines, AppNexus finally furnished an incomplete response in October.
After requesting additional documents, the CMA says it was told on October 22 by AppNexus that the company “genuinely did not know where to start and how to get access to” the Internal Documents and that gathering said documents was “likely going to take more than a week”.
Legal counsel from AppNexus’s parent company AT&T ultimately stepped in in November, confirmed they were taking over responsibility for responding to the Notice and apologising for non-compliance to-date.
AppNexus was bought by AT&T for a reported $1.6 billion in 2018. (AT&T said it planned to invest “$23 billion of capital into our growth areas” in 2019).