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Brussels, 17th July 2008

State aid: Poste Italiane - Commission declares aid to Poste Italiane unlawful and requires recovery

The European Commission has declared unlawful under EC Treaty state aid rules an aid granted to Poste Italiane in the form of excessive renumeration paid by the Italian Treasury for funds collected from Poste Italiane’s customers’ current accounts and deposited with the Treasury as of 2005. Italy did not notify the scheme to the Commission before its implementation so that the aid unlawfully granted must be recovered from Poste Italiane. The Commission's in-depth investigation, opened in September 2006 (see IP/06/1256), found that the interest rates from the Italian Treasury unduly favoured Poste Italiane. This unlawful aid is liable to give Poste Italiane an unfair advantage over its competitors on the liberalised postal and financial markets in Italy. The scheme which led to this benefit to Poste Italiane was repealed in the Italian budgetary law of 2007.

Neelie Kroes, European Commissioner for Competition said: “In the liberalised postal sector, it is crucial to ensure a level playing field among competitors. The illegal aid given to Poste Italiane must therefore be recovered.”

Poste Italiane was legally obliged to deposit the funds collected from customers’ current accounts with the Italian Treasury.

The Commission's investigation revealed that the interest rates paid by the Treasury to Poste Italiane from 2005 onwards are:

  • higher than what would have been obtained from a private borrower and
  • higher than what Poste Italiane would have obtained if it had been free to invest the money on the market.

The Commission concluded that these higher interest rates, which do not conform to market conditions, provided an economic advantage in favour of Poste Italiane and distorted competition and trade within the Single Market.

The Italian budgetary law for 2007 abolished the legal obligation to deposit the funds collected on postal current accounts of private customers with the Treasury and provides that these funds are invested by Poste Italiane in euro area government bonds. The interest paid for these bonds do not contain any state aid as they do not entail any selective advantage.

The non-confidential version of the decision will be made available under the case number C 42/2006 in the State aid Register on the DG Competition website once any confidentiality issues have been resolved. New publications of state aid decisions on the internet and in the Official Journal are listed in the State aid Weekly e-News.

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