Consumer protection

Since 1992, the Italian Competition Authority (ICA) has been granted the power to repress misleading advertising spread out by any means: TV, newspapers, leaflets, posters, telemarketing.

Since 2000 it has also begun to assess also the comparative advertising.

In 2007, following to the transposition of the EC Directive no. 29/2005 into the Italian law system (through the Consumer Code), ICA's competences in the consumer protection field have been broadened to the unfair commercial practices made by undertakings with detriment of consumers.

If an undertaking try to distort the economic choices of a consumer by, for instance, omitting relevant information, spreading out untruthful information or even using forms of undue influence, the ICA may act, also via interim measure, and impose fines which (since August 2012) could range up to 5 million euro (previously, the maximum was 500.000,00 euro).

In 2012 ICA's protection against unfair commercial practices was extended also to the so-called "micro-firms" (that is entities, companies or associations with less than 10 employees and an annual turnover that does not exceed 2 million euro).

Moreover, ICA was granted the enforcement of unfair contractual terms rules with reference to contractual forms or general contractual conditions drafted by sellers or suppliers and used with consumers. In this respect, ICA can either start an inquiry aimed at evaluating the unfair nature of contractual terms (ex officioor following to a complaint) or it can make an assessment under a specific request by a seller/supplier (the so-called “interpello”).