On 21st April 2015, the IAP Governing Council unanimously agreed to appoint Professor Giusella Finocchiaro as a member of the Jury of the Institute for Advertising Self-Regulation for the two-year period 2015-2016.
The aim of the Institute for Advertising Self-Regulation is to provide a safeguard for honest, truthful and fair commercial communication. Through a binding agreement, the Institute requires members to include in their contracts a special clause of acceptance of the norms of the IAP Code and of self-disciplinary decisions. The code is addressed to companies that invest in communication, as well as agencies, consultants, media distributors and dealerships and involves a broad spectrum of the Italian sector of commercial communications.
The members of the Jury and the IAP Monitoring Committee are chosen from experts in a position to evaluate with absolute independence and impartiality in accordance with the special Code, in order to guarantee the impartiality of self-regulatory judgment.
The task of the Institute is to analyze reports of advertisement not considered to be compliant with the norms of the Code, determine bans on unfair advertising, provide operators with prior advice concerning advertising that that has not yet become public and to protect the creativity of future advertising campaigns.
In the field of commercial communication the IAP is an influential interlocutor of the Italian Antitrust Authority and its importance is recognized both at national and European level.
Following the recent outburst of protest on the Internet against the payment of TV license fees for company computers, RAI, Italy’s National Public Service Broadcaster has clarified that the request for payment did not refer to to the mere ownership of a personal computer connected to the Internet, nor to the ownership of tablets and smartphones.
According to reports, demands for payment sent out by the RAI Licence Fee Department only refer to the special license fee due in cases in which computers are used as televisions (digital signage), it being understood that the special fee is not to be paid in cases where companies, corporations and public bodies have already paid licence fees for the ownership of one or more televisions.
The RAI management stresses that the application of this tax in Italy is thus limited to “a much more specific use of computers than that applied for broadcasters by other European countries, which in their license fee requests have listed as equipment subject to the fee not only televisions, but all equipment which is capable of receiving or can be adapted to receive radio and television signals, such as computers connected to the Internet, tablets and smartphones.”
Several Professional Associations have recently launched a formal protest against Groupon, the commercial offers site which is becoming more and more popular in Italy and abroad.
The first complaints came in November from the Medical Association of the province of Bologna when its President Giancarlo Pizza called on all members of the association to have nothing to do with the site. It would appear that offering medical services at knockdown prices is a violation of the Code of Conduct of the medical profession. Those doctors who persist run the risk of facing disciplinary proceedings.
Other Professional Associations soon added their protests to that of the doctors. The Bar Association is in the process of analyzing a number of offers from law consultancy firms which have recently appeared on Groupon, in order to discover whether any of their members are involved. Andrea Mascherin, secretary of the National Bar Council expressed his alarm in an interview with the Italian newspaper Il Fatto Quotidiano: “From a cultural point of view it is extremely risky to pass off the idea that fundamental rights such as health and legal defense can be treated in the same way as pots and pans and mattresses “
Both the Architects Association and the Engineers Association have joined in the chorus of protest in stressing that the race to lower prices may very well correspond to a general lowering of the quality of work done by professionals.
In response to these statements, Groupon’s lawyer has argued that the current Italian legal system also allows doctors to make promotional offers and has stated to the press that “The rules of the Association’s Code of Conduct have lower status than the national rules.”
It is for this reason that Groupon, which makes no secret of the fact that it has identified health coupons as the main attraction for users, decided to file a report with the Antitrust Body against those provincial Medical Associations that bar their members from proposing commercial offers on the site.
New reports have appeared on the Internet from users who have received letters from the German company DAD Deutscher Adressdienst GMBH for registering with the “Italian Internet Registry for companies”.
The letters simply appear to be requests for verification of data related to the professional activities of website owners, whereas in fact signing the form ties the user to a three-year contract for the supply of a service at an annual cost of €958.
This is a well known case of fraud. As long ago as 2007 the ” Italian Internet Registry for companies” was the subject of two provisions on the part of the Italian Antitrust Authority which levied a sizeable fine on the German company for misleading advertising.
In fact, the Authority’s measures made it clear that the name of the service offered would lead consumers to believe that this activity was carried out by the official registry of “it” Top Level Domains run by the Institute for I.T. and Telematics of the CNR in Pisa which is the only body appointed for the registration and the management of “.it” domains in Italy.
The new wave of letters from the “Italian Internet Register for Companies” has been reported on the website of the official “it” registry and a warning has been swiftly circulated over the Internet.
Following more than a thousand complaints from Italian citizens, the Rome Public Prosecutor has launched an investigation into the legality of the site www.italia-programmi.net, operated by Extended Limited and based in the Seychelles.
The offences outlined by Assistant Prosecutor Nello Rossi and by Prosecutor Attorneys Maria Teresa Gregori and Nicola Maiorano are those of fraud and attempted fraud against users of the site.
As previously reported on our blog, italia-programmi.net visitors were subscribing through a normal registration process and basically without their knowledge to a two-year contract for the provision of software at an annual cost of €96. Subsequently, having failed to communicate confirmation of the completion of the contracts, the company Estesa Limited began sending ordinary and registered mail to users demanding payment and threatening them with legal action in the case of default.
The Italian Postal Police is cooperating in the investigation and has started to carry out the checks required by the Competition and Market Authority which has received over 4000 complaints from citizens. It is estimated that the total sum resulting from this fraudulent activity could amount to €100 thousand.
Given the significant number of people currently involved in the fraud, the Authority has recently published a warning note on its website as a reminder that, by a deliberation adopted on the 25th of August as a precautionary measure it has ordered the company Extended Limited “to stop sending demands for payment as, according to initial assessments, they appear related to business conduct in violation of the Consumer’s Code.” Thus, the Authority points out that such demands are sent by Extended Limited in evident violation of its deliberation.
A recent ruling by the European Court of Justice which stated that eBay has liability for the selling of counterfeit goods on its pages offers food for thought on the motley phenomenon of online auctions.
EBay is a well-known website where registered users offer goods for sale which are purchased through a procedure which is in many respects similar to that of an auction. In fact, starting from a minimum price, the goods are “sold” to the party offering the highest price within a certain time limit. However, we should ask ourselves whether a genuine auction takes place on eBay and, consequently, what specific area of legislation should be applied.
What is meant by the term “online auctions”?
The expression “online auctions” may refer to different practices not all of which may be defined as genuine auctions.
The main distinctive feature is the role played by the auction house itself: in a genuine auction, the auction house carries out a series of operations for which it takes responsibility, ranging from guaranteeing the procedure is carried out correctly to providing detailed information on the goods at auction.
However, it is not rare for operators of sites where online auctions are held to limit themselves to providing potential buyers with the technological platform and refraining from carrying out any operation regarding the completion of the negotiation process. In other words, in these cases site managers can be compared to service providers and as such, subject to the provisions under Italian Legislative Decree no. 70 of April 9, 2003 which, as is well known, exempt the provider from a general obligation to monitor the information transmitted or stored, or from a preliminary investigation into facts or circumstances pointing to the presence of any illicit activity.
Are online auctions prohibited?
Art. 18, subsection 5 of Legislative Decree no. 114 of 31 March 1998 forbids online auctions, in the strict sense of the word, through the use of television or other means of distance communication. However, we would like to draw attention to the following point: not all online auctions are prohibited, but only those that are conducted between professionals and consumers. In more precise terms, as indicated by circular No. 3547 / C dated June 17, 2002, the ban only affects retail operators who conduct a direct sale to the final consumer. The reasoning behind this ban is clearly to avoid consumers from making purchases which are injudicious or not made in complete awareness.
From this analysis it emerges that it is only through case by case verification that we will be able to distinguish genuine online auctions from similar negotiation practices between a professional vendor and a consumer on which provisions on distance contracts referred to in Legislative Decree no. 206 of September 6, 2005 are applied.