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Italy: Novelty in the field of abuse of economic dependence for digital platforms

Distribution law

Italy: Novelty in the field of abuse of economic dependence for digital platforms

Law No. 118/2022, which will enter into force on 31 October 2022, significantly amended the Law on Abuse of Economic Dependence (Law No. 192/1998).

The law, which has now been in force in Italy for over twenty years, prohibits the abuse of economic dependence in which a client or supplier company finds itself. Basically, such a situation exists when a company can impose an excessive imbalance of rights and obligations on a contractual partner.

Among the most important novelties is the rebuttable presumption of economic dependence when a company uses the intermediary services of a digital platform that plays a crucial role in reaching commercial end-users or suppliers. In such cases, it is up to the operators of digital platforms to rebut this presumption and prove the absence of economic dependence, whereas the general principle - which also applies outside the scope of this rule - is that the burden of proof lies with the contracting party claiming economic dependence. This rule of presumption does not apply under German law. In Germany, the regulation of abuse of economic dependence is regulated in the Antitrust Law (Section 20 Gesetz gegen Wettbewerbsbeschränkungen, also GWB), which was recently amended to adapt it to digital platforms (GWB Digitisation Act). We further note that at European legislative level, the EU Regulation 2019/1150 (P2B Regulation) also applies, which aims to limit the growing contractual imbalance between online platforms and commercial users.  

Finally, the Italian legislator has standardised a procedural issue that has already been the subject of mutual decisions by expressly establishing the jurisdiction of the specialised chamber of commerce (Sezioni specializzate in materia di impresa).