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Judge probes French nets’ overcharges

Verimedia sez clients charged for slots they didn't get

PARIS — The main French TV networks, including pubcasters France 2 and 3 as well as TF1 and Canal Plus, could face fraud charges following complaints that they overcharged for ad spots.

An examining magistrate launched an investigation after private auditing company Verimedia allegedly found that ads were not being run at the exact times they had been scheduled –potentially representing a huge cost difference.

A-list advertisers

Half a dozen complainants, including big advertisers like Daimler Benz and Unigate, are now lining up to see if the magistrate will take the TV companies to court, their lawyer said, following an investigation that could take six to 12 months.

lawyer Georges Berlioz said Thursday that, should the case reach the courts, he will ask for millions upon millions of francs in compensation.

In a statement Thursday, the organization of TV advertising departments, the Syndicat National de la Publicite Televise (SNPTV), said it was “outraged” at the accusations of fraud. Its members, it said, faithfully respected the French law ensuring openness in TV and press advertising.

Monitoring new

However, Berlioz maintained that the monitoring of advertising was relatively new in France, and that there was still much obfuscation.

“In every other country, TV companies are used to being audited; only in France is there resistance to this. It is depressing that our TV channels behave in this way,” he said.

No statements were forthcoming from the TV companies Thursday.

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