Prize Promotions: Italian Antitrust Authority issues a EUR3M fine against Samsung

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Last Friday February 10 the Italian Competition Authority (Autorità Garante della Concorrenza e del Mercato – “AGCM”) published a decision sanctioning Samsung Electronics Italia S.p.A. (“Samsung”) with a fine amounting to EUR3,100,000 for unfair and aggressive commercial practices.

The decision concerned the promotion and the organization of several prize promotional activities in the period 2014 – 2016 (but some of the concerned activities were still ongoing at the time of the decision).

In particular, AGCM found unlawful several conducts:

  1. the advertising messages promoting – via radio, TV, Internet and press – the prize promotional activities either lacked or did not clearly show essential information, as the information regarding the nature of the promotion, the restrictions, conditions and modalities to obtain the promised prized. For instance, some of the advertising omitted to specify the nature and the duration of the advertised promotion or, in some other cases, the information regarding the applicable restrictions was displayed in small font. In the generality of the cases, not only was the footer difficult to read, but the restrictions and the conditions to participate to the promotions were marginal compared to the advertising messages;
  2. the procedures necessary to obtain the prizes were excessively burdensome and, in the view of AGCM, constituted an unjustified obstacle to get the promised prizes; moreover AGCM found that, on some occasions, consumers were required, in order to obtain the prize, to undertake additional steps which were not provided in the prize competition rules. By way of example, some of the consumers were asked to provide additional documentation (like a declaration of the vendor). Also, many clients found that the purchases made by clients registered for VAT were excluded by the promotions, although such limitation was not clear either from the advertising nor the prize competition rules. Moreover, the customer care was not able to provide a proper assistance to the customers that asked for clarifications;
  3. the prize promotions organized by Samsung required consumers to subscribe to the platform ‘Samsung people’ and to consent to the processing of their personal data with marketing and profiling purposes, although such processing was not necessary for the purposes of the promotional activity at hand. It is interesting to note that, in this case, the AGCM considered an infringement of the data protection law as an unfair commercial practice.

During the proceedings, Samsung submitted to AGCM some commitments in order to show their efforts to amend the current practices and implemented such amendments in the mechanics of the promotions.  Nonetheless the AGCM considered such commitments not sufficient and fined Samsung.

Indeed, in evaluating the amount of the sanction to be issued, AGCM found that the conduct where particularly harsh, considering (a) the period of time during which the unlawful conducts took place, i.e. more than 2 years, and (b) the number of consumers involved.  The full text of the decision in Italian language is available here.

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