On 28 April 2017 the Italian Competition Authority (the "ICA") concluded an investigation into the Italian Banking Association ("ABI") and certain other banks, including main market operators, and ascertained the execution of a confidential agreement aimed at establishing commercial strategies in relation to the new remuneration model of the "SEDA service".
This Agreement replaced the previous direct charge system of bills, named "RID". The system allows businesses and consumers to pay periodic charges (i.e. utility bills) directly through withdrawal from bank accounts. At present, the system includes a real payment method (called "SEDA DD") and an informative service addressed to and paid by billers (called "SEDA").
The ICA ascertained that, during the transition from the former RID system towards the new one, the agreement executed by ABI and the Accused Companies was an anti-competitive agreement, in contravention of Article 101 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.
However, with reference to the specific circumstances of this case, the ICA did not apply any fine on ABI and the accused companies, considering it a minor violation — also in light of the legal and economic context in which the conduct took place — and because during the investigation, the parties proposed an amendment to the system that halved the "SEDA service" total fees, providing businesses and consumers with a reduction in costs.
This decision is significant as it shows the importance the ICA places on the conduct of the parties during the investigation and its practical effect in the relevant market.