The Italian Legislative Decree No. 3 of 19 January 2017 (the "Decree"), effective as of 3 February 2017, provides for specific procedural and substantial rules about private legal actions for violations of European and Italian competition rules.
The Decree applies the Directive 2014/104/EU and governs either stand‑ alone or follow‑up actions to be brought before specialised Courts (located in Milan, Rome and Naples).
The legal actions may be started in any alleged breach of competition rules, without regard to whether the Italian Competition Authority (the “ICA”) has previously decided the relevant case.
Indeed, in stand‑alone cases, the Decree strengthens the powers of the specialised Courts to request any third party to disclose documents, deemed necessary to make the plaintiff prove the alleged violation of competition rules and the consequent damages suffered.
This provision may be considered as one of the most important points of the legislative reform as information asymmetry (between the accused and accuser) has always been the main ground for the lack of effectiveness of the private enforcement of competition rules over the European Union. Effectively, companies have struggled to bring competition claims due to a lack of available evidence.
In follow‑up cases, the Decree makes the decisions issued by the ICA which have not been appealed or the relevant appeal has been rejected binding on the specialised Courts.
Finally, the Decree provides that a plaintiff can sue for all the damages from any undertakings involved in the alleged anti‑competitive conduct, regardless of the importance of their role in the alleged infringement.
The effect of the Decree is likely to increase the number of private legal actions for competition rules violations and consequently, it is advisable that undertakings pay particular attention on obtaining specialist competition law advice in relation to their operations to minimise the possibility of being the subject of such a court action.