A newsletter prepared by Studio Legale Bernascone & Soci In Association with Squire, Sanders & Dempsey L.L.P. (formerly an office of Graham & James LLP)

June/July 2000

TRADING ON LINE. The Italian Stock Exchange Commission, CONSOB, by its Notice no. DI/30396 of April 21, 2000, has adopted a regulation concerning the rules to be complied with by banks and investment companies when providing on line investment services to investors. CONSOB specified that the provision of investment services through trading on line shall comply with the applicable legislation and regulations governing in general investment services, and particularly Legislative Decree no. 58/1998 (the Consolidated Text of Financial Legislation) and Regulation no. 11522/1998 on the execution at distance of agreements for the provision of investment services. CONSOB Regulation clarifies how the relevant prescriptions set forth by the existing legislation shall be fulfilled in the event of trading on line agreements.

Bank of Italy at the beginning of July 2000 has stated that on line modalities may be used also for the first subscription of participation quotas to mutual investment funds if the said type of subscription is provided by the relevant management company’s regulation. For this purpose Bank of Italy has provided that management companies of investment funds shall adopt new regulations contemplating the possibility to subscribe participation quotas on line within a short term.

Source: CONSOB Notice no. DI/30396 of April 21, 2000, www.consob.it/www.bancaditalia.it

INTERNET DOMAIN NAMES. Sabena, the Belgian airline company, had failed to register the domain name www.sabena.it, as the same domain name had already been assigned to another company by the Italian Registration Authority. Sabena sought injunctive relief before the Court of Florence claiming that the registration of "Sabena" as a domain name infringed its trademark rights on the same name. Surprisingly, the Court of Florence ruled for the defendant. The decision affirms that, before any legislation on the matter will be enacted, the trademark holder does not enjoy any right to register the trademark as a domain name.

The decision contradicts the trend of Italian case law on domain names, which consistently granted protection to trademark holders against the use of their marks as domain names.

Source: order issued by the Court of Florence on 29th June 2000, news published by the newspaper "Il Sole 24 Ore" on July 7, 2000, http://www.ilsole24ore.it/_norme/dominiweb .

REPORT OF THE ENERGY AUTHORITY. The Italian Authority for Electricity and Gas has issued its annual report on the status of the energy market and on the activity performed in 1999. As usual, the report deals with both the electricity and the gas sectors.

As far as the electricity market is concerned, the Authority underlines that the reform of the sector which started with the implementation of EC Directive 96/92, concerning common rules for the internal electricity market, is still unsatisfactory. Whereas the Legislative Decree No. 79/99, whereby the Directive has been implemented, has succeeded in developing the demand for power on the free market (the eligible clients by now number more than 800), the supply side is still underdeveloped. Therefore, the report favorably views the possible anticipation of the compulsory sale by ENEL (the formerly state-owned electricity monopolist) of 15,000 MW of its generating capacity.

As regards the gas sector, the Authority praises the liberalization introduced by Legislative Decree No. 164/00 (whereby EC Directive 98/30, concerning common rules for the internal gas market, has been implemented) as one of the most advanced in Europe. Also in this sector, however, a real unbundling of the former state-monopolist (ENI) must follow in order not to have such liberalization more virtual than actual!

Source: Authority for Electricity and Gas, Annual Report; www.autorita.energia.it

IMPLEMENTATION OF "TAX AUTHORITY AND TAX PAYER CODE OF CONDUCT". On July 12, 2000, the Italian Parliament conclusively voted upon and approved "The Tax Authority and Tax Payer Code of Conduct" ("Statuto del Contribuente") putting an end to an internal debate which had lasted over ten years. In an effort to ensure "co-operation" and "good faith", the enactment is intended to provide tax payers with a more comprehensive set of guarantees and new means for their effective protection. The main provisions include:

  • the effectiveness and interpretation of tax law;
  • an advanced tax ruling;
  • tax assessments procedures;
  • the introduction of the Tax Payer Authority

Specifically, pursuant to section 14 of the code the Tax Authority will provide non-resident tax payers with accurate information as to methods for computation of taxes. Moreover, the latter will be enabled to resort to simplified forms as well as facilitation for obtaining an Italian tax code, filing tax returns and related payments.

Source: Il Sole 24 Ore www.ilsole24ore.it

PARENTAL LEAVE. Law n. 53 of 8 March 2000 increased the rights of employed parents who are in care of children below eight years of age. For the first time in the Italian legal system, fathers are granted rights to a proper parental leave. Law n. 53/2000 also provides for incentives to ease transformation of full-time employment contracts into part-time employment contracts and directs regional and local legislators towards a wider and more flexible regulation of opening hours for shops, public offices and commercial malls. The purpose of Law n. 53/2000 is to contribute raising the Italian birth ratio, currently the lowest in the world.

Source: Official Gazette n. 60 of 13 March 2000.