Unilateral conduct

Unilateral conduct by non-dominant firms

Are there any rules applying to the unilateral conduct of non-dominant firms?

Article 3 of the Law only applies to companies holding a dominant position on a relevant market.

It is relevant to mention that article 9 of Law No. 192/1998 prohibits the conduct of an undertaking that abuses the economic dependence of another company. The economic dependence occurs when a company has market power over another company so as to be able to impose unfair conditions in a contract. Any contract, or severable clause thereof, resulting from such abuse is void. Whether an abuse occurred is analysed based on an assessment whether the allegedly dependent undertaking had the possibility to find alternative business partners. The IAA is competent in this field if the abuse of economic dependency may affect competition and the market. However, only in one case, the IAA indeed ended proceedings regarding this kind of practice with a fining decision (RP1 - Violazioni dei termini di pagamento), imposing fines for a total amount of €800,000 on Hera for repeated infringement of the Italian applicable law on payment terms. Economic dependency law can also be enforced through the court system in damages actions and there have been several cases in this respect since its introduction.

Moreover, article 62 of Law No. 27/2012 prohibits certain types of conduct by the supplier of agricultural and food products in Italy. These prohibitions largely concern practices that could, in theory, be sanctioned under the abuse of dominance rules, but they do not require the relevant authority to ascertain a dominant position on the relevant market.