Giovedì, 18 Ottobre 2018

Antitrust tells govt to beef up competition policy


(By Emily Backus)
Rome, June 18 - The Italian antitrust authority
chief on Tuesday said it was making headway in its fight to
ensure competition but called on lawmakers to up the ante if it
wants the economy to grow.
Speaking to parliament, Giovanni Pitruzzella said the
watchdog had ordered more than 182 million euros' worth of fines
over 17 months covering 2012 and the first months of 2013.
A total of 170 million euros stemmed from 31 cases of
unfair competition practices, he said in his annual report
A total of 159 consumer protection cases generated 12.5
million euros in fines, he added.
Pitruzella also warned that growth will not return to Italy
without structural reform to increase competition.
"Returning to growth requires structural reforms that
increase the country's competitiveness. Policy for competition
constitutes one of the most important issues," said Pitruzzella.
"Competition policy is not topical but central,"
Pitruzzella continued, explaining that promoting competitiveness
and economic growth indirectly tackles excessive socioeconomic
inequalities "that have characterized Western society in the
last decade".
Pitruzzella cited economist and Nobel laureate Joseph
Stiglitz, saying that "non-competitive markets, or worse still,
situations of monopoly create income conditions favouring
restricted economic and social groups".
Pitruzzella also called for harmonizing the liberalization
of markets among all European Union countries.
"The existence of non-homogeneous levels of liberalisation
in the various States" of the EU represents "an obstacle on the
path of reciprocity and the full affirmation of a single market.
"We must insist on Italian political institutions to demand
the same zeal for guaranteeing the openness of markets that
Italy is demonstrating".
At the same time, Pitruzzella singled out Italian sectors
in dire need of competitive intervention, such as the
automotive-insurance and banking sectors.
Pitruzzella warned that banking "constitutes a priority"
for better consumer protection.
The antitrust chief said, "Information asymmetry is high,
and there is - also because of the particular economic
environment that the country is going through - a sort of
'subjugation' of consumers with respect to professionals".
Pitruzzella tagged automotive insurance as another target
for better consumer protection.
"The average (auto-insurance) premium is more than twice
that paid in France and Portugal, and exceeds German (premiums)
by 80% and Dutch premiums by almost 70%," Pitruzzella said.
The antitrust chief also called for overhauling Italy's
"geriatric" transport authority for cargo and passenger rail.
Pitruzzella said the electricity sector was in peril of
deep, damaging change.
Electricity "is seeing profound changes loaded with
pitfalls," said Pitruzzella.
Declining consumption and the spread of renewable energy
were creating conditions in which conventional thermal-power
plants were unable to cover their costs. Thus the market was
veering toward consolidation and "probable" energy-price
increases, Pitruzzella explained.
The antitrust chief also urged parliament to make Italy a
hub for Mediterranean gas, which requires creating "structural
excess supply" within national borders and making "new, limited
The antitrust annual report recommends facilitating the
creation of liquified natural gas (LNG) plants, for which "the
complexity of administrative procedures have weighed
negatively," Pitruzzella warned.
He also endorsed regulated development of the Internet.
"The Internet is certainly a great opportunity for
development that we can not afford to miss," he said.
He added, however, that "freedom does not mean anarchy and
absence of rules".
Pitruzzella called specifically for "the protection of the
rights of publishers who produce content...used free of charge"
by actors he described as "over-the-top".
Pitruzzella said it was necessary to "regulate the economic
relations between the actors involved".

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