On 6 April 2016, the Italian Competition Authority ("ICA") opened an in-depth investigation into two leading Italian ferry companies, along with their parent companies (together the "Accused Companies"), which operate on routes to and from Sardinia.
The investigation was sparked by a complaint from a competing Italian ferry company (the "Complainant") which reported conduct which it alleges to be in breach of Article 102 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union ("TFEU"); the provision against the abuse of dominance.
The Complainant details how the Accused Companies:
- refused to load or transport cargo belonging to transport operators who are connected commercially to the Complainant without having an objective reason; and
- modified terms and conditions in contracts with said operators in a discriminatory manner; including by demanding payment in advance of shipping instead of granting a 90-day payment period (as is customary).
The alleged wrongdoing is not proven at this stage and the investigation continues. However, the ICA has opined that such conduct, if proven, would amount to an infringement of Article 102 TFEU on the grounds that it would adversely affect trade within the EU (and particularly throughout multiple Mediterranean tourist destinations).