The Competition Authority recently published its decision to open antitrust proceedings against Italian railway operator Ferrovie dello Stato Italiane for possible abusive conduct against Nuovo Trasporto Viaggiatori (NTV), a new market entrant. The authority believes that this alleged conduct could be aimed at impeding NTV's entry into the market and harming consumers.
The Competition Authority recently fined Telecom Italia for exclusionary conduct aimed at hampering its competitors' market expansion. The authority determined that Telecom Italia abused its dominant position by denying wholesale network infrastructure access and broadband access to its competitors and by offering anti-competitive discounts to its business clients, thereby squeezing its rivals' margins.
The government has introduced two important changes to the competition rules that will affect companies doing business in Italy. The first is the introduction of a new mandatory tax that companies must pay annually to the Competition Authority. The second is a change in the merger turnover thresholds, which will result in a significantly reduced number of mergers being notified to the authority.
The Administrative Court of Lazio has annulled the Competition Authority's decision against MasterCard's domestic interchange fees. This is the first case in which the court, following the European Court of Justice's precedent in Alrosa, has limited the authority's broad discretion in rejecting undertakings and has annulled one of its decisions solely because the parties' undertakings were unlawfully rejected.
The recyclable waste management sector has been under scrutiny from the Competition Authority, which has raised several competition law concerns. However, debate continues as to whether the authority's preferred solution is appropriate. Moreover, it is unclear whether the consortia in the sector - which arguably provide services of general economic interest - are fully subject to competition rules.
Including: Legislative developments; Mergers; Cartels and other anti-competitive practices; Commitment cases; Abuse of dominant position; Court decisions.
The arrival of class actions is expected to prove a catalyst for private antitrust and consumer law enforcement. However, as well as the burden of proof for consumers and the use of regulatory decisions in follow-on actions, the regime raises difficult issues about the interplay between public and private enforcement. For example, if an undertaking applies for leniency, will its commitments provide ammunition for claimants?
In the past few years the European Commission and the Italian Competition Authority have both examined the retail banking sector and multilateral interchange fees. Seen in the context of the Italian regulator's previous interventions in the sector, the ongoing proceedings against MasterCard and several other banks could have significant consequences in the European context.
The Competition Authority has published the new pre-merger notification thresholds. Following a decision by the Council of State, the authority has also published a revised version of its notification form to clarify the meaning of a 'concentration'. The decision establishes that the mere acquisition of a commercial licence does not automatically constitute a 'concentration' under the act.
The Supreme Administrative Court recently addressed the controversial issue of the assessment of joint bidding under antitrust provisions prohibiting anti-competitive agreements. The applicable laws provide no prohibition for undertakings which individually meet the requirements to enter a bidding consortium. Therefore, case law has admitted 'over-dimensioned' bidding consortia.
Decisions issued by the Council of State have prompted the Competition Authority to reconsider fines imposed following cartel investigations. The authority reduced its fines for participants in a disinfectant products cartel, but confirmed and explained the €13.2 million fine imposed on oil company Total for cartel activity in the jet fuel market following a reassessment of Total's market share.
The Competition Authority has fined Aeroporti di Roma SpA, the exclusive concessionaire for the management of Rome’s Fiumicino and Ciampino airports, around €1.7 million for abusing its dominant position. The authority found that the company had engaged in excessive pricing and margin squeezing.
The Competition Authority has concluded its 14-month investigation into an alleged abuse of market power by Ferrovie dello Stato SpA and Rete Ferroviaria Italiana SpA. The authority found no infringement of Article 82 of the EC Treaty and no grounds for further action, holding that its concerns had been addressed by behavioural commitments offered by the two companies.
In light of the worsening financial crisis of former flag-carrier Alitalia, the government has introduced legislation to facilitate the implementation of rescue plans for large companies. In certain circumstances a concentration involving a company that provides basic public services will not require clearance from the Competition Authority.
Lazio Regional Administrative Court has partly annulled the Competition Authority's 2007 decision to fine two suppliers of autoclaved aerated concrete for engaging in anti-competitive practices. The court overturned the regulator's imposition of fines and its order to terminate joint venture agreements between the companies, but upheld the original decision on exclusionary conduct.
The Competition Authority has applied to the Council of State, Italy’s highest administrative court, for a revision of the court’s judgment in the Industrial Gas Case. In 2006 the authority fined Italy's main gas producers €56.9 million; it now claims that the subsequent annulment of this decision was based on factual errors.
The Competition Authority has authorized the acquisition of Antonveneta by Banca Monte Paschi di Siena. Both parties are active in the banking and insurance sectors and the concentration will create the third-largest player in the Italian banking sector. However, the authority's approval is subject to five conditions.
The Competition Authority has closed its investigation into the market conduct of the Italian Publishers’ Association and nine Italian publishers in the market for secondary school textbooks. The authority did not establish any violation of competition rules and accepted and made binding the commitments submitted by the parties on an individual basis.
The Industrial Gas Case is one of the very few instances of a cartel decision issued by the authority being entirely annulled following a judicial review. Although its reasoning includes a few foibles, the court conducted an unusually thorough and critical review of all of the circumstantial evidence relied upon by the Competition Authority and the inferences drawn from it in the original decision.
Two new decree-laws have implemented the EU Unfair Commercial Practices Directive and the EU Misleading Advertising Directive in Italy, modifying the previous rules in the Consumer Protection Code. The new regime gives the Competition Authority extended powers to investigate breaches and impose penalties.