IP346 - ICA: ASPI fined for non-compliance, green light for consumer refunds
The Italian Competition Authority had initiated proceedings because the company had not taken any measures to reduce the toll after the fine was levied. From now on, users will be entitled to reimbursements between 25% and 100% of the toll amount, depending on the kilometre range travelled and the delay time accumulated due to the disruptions caused by the work sites
The Italian Competition Authority closed the proceedings against Autostrade per l’Italia S.p.A. (ASPI), initiated as the company failed to comply with the Authority decision of March 2021 requiring it to cease the ascertained unfair practice.
The proceedings had been initiated last July since the company had not adopted any measure involving a toll reduction or a procedure for the implementation of toll reduction mechanisms, to compensate for serious inconvenience to the use of the motorway service attributable to ASPI, involving lane reductions and/or specific limitations of the maximum speed allowed with the consequent formation of queues, slowdowns and significantly increased journey times.
Immediately after the opening of the proceedings, the company presented an experimental programme for the progressive reimbursement of the toll, called Cashback, which was analysed and examined in depth at multiple meetings with both ASPI and the Ministry of Sustainable Infrastructure and Mobility.
As a consequence of critical issues, the cashback programme was modified and refined so as to provide a mechanism that would proportionally and adequately compensate consumers/users for the inconveniences caused to them.
The measures taken by ASPI to address the complaints concerning its non-compliance with the Authority decision of March 2021, some of which have already been implemented, will entitle a large number of users to obtain refunds ranging from 25% to 100% of the toll, depending on the kilometre range travelled and the delay accumulated due to the inconvenience caused by the work sites. In particular, reimbursements are foreseen as early as the month of May for delays starting from 10 minutes for trips up to 99 km and at least 15 minutes for all other bands (up to over 500 km), calculated on the basis of the historical average speed of 100 km/h for light vehicles and 70 km/h for heavy vehicles.
The reimbursement procedures, the process of which is managed through a special application called FREE TO X - available as free download for users - and also in future through a special section of ASPI's website, were also modified and refined by the company during the proceedings.
The validation and payment of the refund will take place automatically, including for minimum delays, depending on the payment method of the toll used by the customer (electronic toll and/or cards or cash).
ASPI will use a comprehensive communication plan involving various channels to make the cashback system as widely known as possible.
The implementation of all the measures proposed by the company, which were deemed fully suitable for overcoming the practices that had been deemed unfair pursuant to the Authority decision of March 2021, will be concluded by the end of 2022, which is why the Authority nonetheless considered ASPI's conduct to be a violation of Article 27(12) of the Consumer Code.
However, considering ASPI's efforts in connection with the introduction of Cashback as well as the complexity and innovativeness of the proposed measures, some of which have already been implemented and which constitute an unprecedented initiative in the European road transport services sector, the Antitrust Authority has decided to impose a fine on ASPI equal to the minimum fine for non-compliance (EUR 10,000).
Rome, 20 May 2022