Hosting providers are not to be held liable for any offences committed by their users nor are they required to remove contents at the request of subjects who claim to be injured parties. The Court of Grosseto relieves Tripadvisor from all responsibility for negative reviews by members of its community.
In judgment no. 46 of 2016, the Court of Grosseto established that providers of services such as Tripadvisor are to be considered as hosting providers and for this reason are not to be held liable for offences committed by their users.
The case was brought by a hotel in the Argentario area, which pressed charges against the travel portal in 2013 for publishing a negative review that the hotelier considered to be false and defamatory. In the opinion of the plaintiff, Tripadvisor was jointly liable for defamation, as it did not prevent the publication of the review, remove the review promptly enough following its being notified and also as it failed to agree to communicate details of the reviewer.
By rejecting the hotelier’s application, the Court of Grosseto established that the platform acted in compliance with Italian legislation. According to the judge what is important when defining a hosting service is the role played in relation to published contents: in the case in question the portal does not interfere with the contents of reviews and therefore cannot be considered liable.
On the 2nd of May 2016 a draft law was submitted to the Chamber of Deputies of the Italian Parliament, which aims at “regulating digital platforms for the sharing of goods and services”, and at “promoting an economy based on mutual sharing”. The purpose is to regulate the so-called sharing economy through an across-the-board approach to different professional areas.
Italy would be the first country to regulate this booming economic sector, which includes such by now notorious services as Uber (now prohibited in Italy) and AirBnB.
The draft text is the result of eighteen months’ work carried out by the Parliamentary Intergroup for Technological Innovation. Article 1 lays down the law’s objectives, while Article 2 clarifies the definition of “sharing economy”, establishing that services for which providers determine a fixed charge are not to be included. Article 3 calls for sharing platforms to register with a national electronic register kept by the Italian Antitrust Authority. With the creation of an electronic register, platforms will have to obtain the approval of the Authority, whose task it will be to evaluate inconsistencies and possible infringements (or acts of unfair competition against the traditional sectors).
However, it is principally the fiscal aspect, which the draft law aims to regulate. The new regulation provides for 10% taxation on the revenue generated by platforms, up to a maximum of 10,000€ per year, which can also comprise sums for different services. The obligation for payment of the taxes would lie with the platforms themselves, which would be required to withhold the amounts due from the takings of registered customers, thus acting as withholding agents. On exceeding the threshold of 10,000€, the income made by platforms will be considered as actual earnings, to be added to those already made. New rules have also been provided for payments, which must henceforth only be carried out by digital means.
The signatories of the draft law expect this operation to raise tax revenue from 150 million € to 3 billion € by 2025.
The draft law has started its approval procedure at the Joint Parliamentary Commissions of Transport and Productive Activities.
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.