Competition is governed by the law on the protection of competition and the market which aims to prevent:
- anticompetitive agreements;
- the abuse of dominant market positions;
- mergers and acquisitions that strengthen or determine a dominant position.
The legislation on misleading and comparative advertising gives the Authority on Fair Competition more powers of investigation and strengthens its sanctioning instruments.
Italian Authority on Fair Competition
Italian Authority on Fair Competition (known as the Antitrust Authority) is an independent institution that is a public administration that makes its own decisions based on the law, without the possibility of interference by the Government, nor other organs of political representation.
It has expertise in the field of unfair commercial practices and misleading and comparative advertising, as well as conflicts of interests.
It is forbidden to have any kind of agreement between companies when this involves, even if only potentially, a consistent restriction of competition in the national market or a relevant part of it.
Along with formal agreements between businesses (agreed practices), the law also considers as agreements other activities in which economic operators voluntarily agree to regulate their own behaviour on the market.
Within three months of the notification of the start of proceedings, the companies concerned may propose actions intended to eliminate the anti-competitive elements being investigated (obligations).
After evaluating the effectiveness of the obligations undertaken, the Authority may make these Actions compulsory and close the proceedings, without reporting any infringement. In case of non-compliance with the obligations undertaken, the Authority may impose a Fine of up to 10% of turnover.
Abuse of dominant position
A company has a dominant position when it acts in a significantly independent manner, managing to dictate itself the rules of the competition by virtue of its clear superiority over its competitors.
The law does not prohibit the dominant position as such, but imposes restrictions: abuse of a dominant position within the national market or a relevant part of it by one or more companies is forbidden.
Companies, within three months of the notification of the start of an investigation, may undertake to put an end to practices whose direct aim is to reduce or eliminate competition.
Other competencies of the Authority
On its own initiative or at the request of public bodies, the Authority can launch investigations of a general nature in a market or sector, in which there is a suspicion of the existence of barriers to free competition.
The Authority has the power to report to the relevant Government, Parliament or Government Agencies the cases in which the legal provisions already in effect, or in the process of being formed, would create restrictions to competition which are not justified on the basis of public interest requirements.
Strict provisions govern company mergers