Editorial Director: Giusella Finocchiaro
Web Content Manager: Giulia Giapponesi

posted by admin on gennaio 29, 2012

Consumer rights

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The Italian Antitrust Authority has imposed a fine of €1.500.000 on the company Estesa Limited, owner of the site www.italia-programmi.net, for misleading and aggressive commercial practices.

This heavy fine is the result of the investigation by the Italian Antitrust Authority in collaboration with the Postal Police which was launched last July after the Authority had received reports from thousands of people who had fallen victim to a scam business which used the italia programmi.net website. as its platform.

This site appeared to users as the first search result on Google when looking for free software downloads and they were invited to register and provide personal information in order to download the software they were looking for. Through the registration process they were in fact subscribing, basically without their knowledge, to a two-year contract with the company Estesa Limited based in the Seychelles, for the provision of software at an annual cost of €96 to be paid in advance once a year.

According to the Antitrust Authority, the registration page did not set out the terms of the subscription in a sufficiently prominent place for them to be immediately seen and understood. Basically “the consumer was led to believe that it was a free service.”

The Authority has also identified undue psychological pressure on citizens in the practices of Estesa Limited. In fact after registration and having failed to communicate to users any confirmation whatsoever of the completion of the contracts, the company began sending them ordinary and registered mail demanding payment and threatening them with legal action and consequent considerable additional costs in the case of default. Many letters received by citizens even referred to possible legal implications under the criminal code which are non-existent in Italy.

According to the Authority’s estimate, the fraud involved more than 25 thousand consumers. Our blog also warned of the scale of the deception. The various posts that we have devoted to the investigation have in fact aroused the interest of nearly a hundred readers, who have sent us their comments pointing out that they had been victims of the unfair business practices of Estesa Limited.

From what we learn from the Authority’s press release Estesa Limited does not to date appear to have ever threatened any legal action against consumers who refuse to meet its demands for payment.

Finding that Estesa’s illegal conduct is in violation of the Consumer Code, the Authority’s decision will be released on the international circuit of the Authorities for consumer protection since it is a practice likely to be “replicated” with similar characteristics in other countries .

A copy of the Authority’s decision was also sent to the Public Prosecutor’s Office in Rome, which had already opened a file on the case in November, following reports from people who had applied directly to the office itself.

The company has as yet offered no response to the Italian Authority’s resolution.

posted by admin on agosto 2, 2011

computer crimes, Consumer rights

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The Italian Antitrust Authority has recently announced the start of an investigation into unfair business practices by the website Italia-programmi.net owned by Estesa Limited, with the possible adoption of an interim injunction.

The proceedings started after a number of reports on the part of members of the public and consumer groups who had inadvertently paid for subscriptions on the site.

The link to www.italia programmi.net seems to have appeared as the first option on Google search results pages related to free downloads of a number of software applications, including the anti-virus software Avira.

Once users had reached the site they were asked to register and provide personal information in order to download the free software. In reality, however, through the registration process and without their knowledge, consumers were subscribing to a two-year contract with Estesa Ltd, a Republic of Seychelles based company, for the provision of software at an annual cost of €96 payable in advance once a year.

According to the Authority, the registration page quoted the terms of the subscription with insufficient graphic evidence for them to be understood at first sight. In point of fact “the consumer was led to believe that it was a free service.”

Once users had submitted their personal data and without providing them with any confirmation whatsoever of the completion of the contract, the company then began to demand payment, threatening to take legal action against users in the case of default, which would naturally lead to heavy additional costs.

Such reminders would even be sent to consumers who had exercised the right of withdrawal under the terms and conditions stipulated in the contract.

The Antitrust investigation into Italia-programmi.net is yet another case of websites which persuade consumers to sign contracts and subscribe to the supply of various services without their knowledge. It is estimated that between 2009 and 2011 alone, the Authority has imposed more than €5 million in fines for misconduct regarding such cases.

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