European Commission


Case detail

Directive article Article 5 2.
Article 7 1.
National ID PS166
Country Italy Decision date 12/03/2009
Common name ACEA-DISTACCO FORNITURA ACQUA Decision type Administrative decision, first degree
Court Autorità Garante della Concorrenza e del Mercato (Rome) Plaintiff(s) Italian Competition Authority
Court translation Italian Competition Authority Defendant(s) ACEA ATO 2 S.p.A.
Subject professional diligence
Keywords economic behaviourmaterial informationmisleading omissionsprofessional diligence

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(1) The interruption of a water supply service without any prior communication constitutes an unfair commercial practice. 

(2) Taking into account the necessity of its services, a water supplier is expected to adhere to a higher level of professional diligence when taking the decision to cut the water supply. 


Further to some complaints (including press and internet releases), the Italian Competition Authority started on 16 October 2008 its investigation proceedings against ACEA ATO 2 S.p.A., a company active in the management of the water services in the area of Rome.

The commercial practices investigated by the Authority consisted of:

(1) The interruption of the water supply without any prior communication;

(2) Demanding the payment of non-chargeable costs.

The interruption of the water supply from the trader was depending on the apparent delay in payment of consumers. However, most of them had regularly paid the water service, although their payments were not properly recorded by the trader.

Legal issue

Do the interruption of the water supply service without any prior communication and the request for paying non-chargeable costs constitute unfair commercial practices?


(1) The Italian Competition Authority decided that the interruption of the water supply without any prior communication constitutes an unfair commercial practices, and in particular a misleading omission, since the trader had omitted material information that the average consumer needs to take an informed transactional decision.

The Authority also decided that such practice is contrary to the requirement of professional diligence. Taking into account the relevance of the service concerned, the trader is expected to attend to a higher degree of professional diligence. Accordingly, the trader must adopt specific actions prior to the interruption of the water supply (e.g., send a registered letter, in order to inform the consumer).

The Authority also took into account the significant importance of the service in question (water) and the fact that the trader acts in the relevant market as a monopolist.

(2) With respect to the request to pay non-chargeable costs, the complaint was dismissed, since -- even if the trader had carried out some accounting mistakes -- it had proved to adopt an efficient control system to immediately verify and handle consumer complaints.

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The Italian Competition Authority decided to fine ACEA ATO 2 S.p.A. for an amount equal to 150.000 EUR and to impose to cease the unfair behaviour.

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