After two-and-a-half-years of parliamentary debate, on 2 August 2017, the Italian Parliament has (finally) approved the Annual Market and Competition Law. The Law, whose definitive text has not yet been published, has been definitively approved by the Senate following the vote of confidence proposed by the government. The Law is expected to enter into force during the next Autumn.
The purpose of the Law, as explicitly stated in its first article, is to “remove regulatory obstacles to allow the opening up of markets, promote competition and guarantee consumer protection.”
Below we highlight some of the major novelties relevant from an antitrust point of view.
Amendment to merger control notification thresholds
The new Law amends the thresholds applicable to merger control notification regime. Under the new thresholds, a concentration shall be notified to the Italian Competition Authority where:
- the aggregate national turnover of all the companies concerned exceeds EUR 492 million; and
- the aggregate national turnover of each of at least two of the companies concerned exceeds EUR 30 million.
It is noted that the second threshold is not anymore referred to the national turnover of the target company, but it encompasses the national turnover of at least two companies concerned in the operation. It is thus likely that the new system will allow the Authority to capture a greater number of concentrations and, therefore, to broaden the scope of the notification obligations, at least in relation to joint-ventures. As usual, the values will be annually updated according to the increase of the GDP price deflator index.
Hotel bookings and equal treatment clauses
The new Law prohibits the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) clauses. According to the Law, contractual clauses forbidding hotels and tourist accommodation operators from offering prices, terms and conditions better than those charged by the same through third parties (i.e. online booking platforms) are null and void.
The Law postpones to 1st July 2019 the date of entry into force of the liberalization of the markets for energy and gas utilities, previously set at the 30th of June 2017. Therefore, starting from the 1st July 2019 the regulated market for the distribution of electricity and gas to households will be abolished, resulting in the liberalization of retail markets.
Notification of judicial papers and fines for violations of driving rules
The Law provides that, starting from the 10th September 2017, state controlled group Poste Italiane will no longer enjoy the monopoly over the delivery service and notification of judicial papers and fines for violation of driving rules.
The Law delegates to the government the issuance of a legislative decree to update the discipline of non-public transportation services, like Uber and Vehicle hire firms with drivers. The Government shall “adequate the provision of services provided via web apps using technological platforms to connect passengers with drivers.”
The Law also provides for further measures concerning various sectors, such as insurance, banking, pharmaceutical, telecoms, pay-tv, legal and notary professions, financial leasing.