In June 2007 the European Commission formally requested Italy to amend its rules on the establishment of service stations, which previously imposed: (i) compliance with regional market programming, (ii) compulsory minimum size and additional “non-oil” commercial activities, (iii) minimum distances between installations, (iv) constraints regarding opening hours, and (v) analytical self-certification accompanied by a report by a sworn expert entered on the Italian register. The Commission’s request took the form of a Reasoned Opinion, based on Article 226 of the EC Treaty.

The legal framework involved both national and regional law. Italian national authorities promised legislative initiatives, but as nothing had been done by February 2008, the Commission decided to bring Italy before the European Court of Justice, stating that Italian provisions were contrary to Article 43 of the EC Treaty providing for freedom of establishment in the Internal Market. In November 2008 the Commission closed its infringement proceedings against Italy, following the recent general legislative reform on the industry removing all the disputed restrictions. It is to be hoped that this will open up more opportunities to investors in the service station sector.