Italian law now includes a new provision on abuse of economic dependence with a special focus on digital space. Abuse of economic dependence is prohibited and triggers nullity of the agreement concerned and, if the abuse is considered to be affecting competition on the market, additional administrative sanctions issued by the Italian antitrust authority.
The Italian annual bill on competition modified Article 9 of Italian law no. 192/1998 and introduced a presumption of economic dependence applicable to contractual relationships where digital platforms play a “key role” in reaching end users and/or suppliers. The presumption shifts to digital platform operators the burden of proving the absence of economic dependence.
The law does not offer a specific definition of “digital platform”, therefore a wide range of entities, including marketplaces and search engines, can be included in the scope of the rule. For the provision to apply, however, a “key role” of the digital platform in reaching end users or suppliers must be proven. “Key role” is a concept that lends itself to multiple interpretations, but some commentators suggested that said criterion could be referring to the gatekeepers as defined by the Digital Markets Act (Regulation (EU) 2022/1925), even if it does not seem to exclude other “minor” operators.
The newly introduced provisions are expected to have a huge impact on relationships between digital platforms operators and their business partners.