The industry body for public relations practitioners wants competition regulators to force Kantar Media to divest a portion of its Irish business, over concerns that a proposed takeover by market leader Kantar of its nearest rival was having an effect on its service to the sector.
The Public Relations Institute of Ireland (PRII) wants the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) to set conditions on the proposed takeover by Kantar of family-owned Newsaccess.
Both companies provide media monitoring services for corporate and PR clients, and their merged entity would have the bulk of the market here.
The takeover was announced in February, and was notified to the CCPC. Despite Newsaccess’ turnover being slightly below the €3 million threshold required, CCPC is investigating because of the market dominance involved.
Subsequent to the proposed takeover announcement, in May Kantar axed most of its estimated 30-40 staff in Dublin, and shifted its functions to its London operation.
It also shifted its Irish clients on to a new IT platform, on to which Newsaccess clients were also moved despite the takeover not being in effect.
Since then, the PR industry complains that the level of service has fallen, and that Irish clients cannot get in contact with the UK staff. They complain that because of the pending Newsaccess takeover, they have no alternative provider, so they want CCPC to ensure another competitor joins the market.
CCPC said it is aware of “concerns” over the takeover and has asked Kantar for further information.
PRII wants CCPC “to urgently introduce measures to ensure there is real, meaningful and significant competition” in the media monitoring market.
"When the acquisition was originally announced, it caused a lot of concern within the public relations profession. Media monitoring is a hugely important service to our sector, particularly monitoring of print and broadcast media," said John Carroll, chief executive of PRII.
“Our members are deeply dissatisfied with the service being provided by Kantar/Newsaccess, but lack any established alternatives.”
He said PRII wants Kantar, owned by media giant WPP, to be forced so offload some of its enlarged Irish client book. Kantar said it is working with CCPC to address concerns.
"We have also been engaging with PRII to address the service level concerns. We have apologised for the service issues," said Eimear Faughnan of Kantar Media Ireland. She added staff are "doing everything they can to address them as soon as possible."