Italy sanctions ENEL and associated agencies for misleading consumers By EFE

© Reuters. Italy sanctions ENEL and associated agencies for misleading consumers

Rome, Nov 18 (.).- The Italian Competition and Market Guarantor Authority (AGCM) has sanctioned the energy company ENEL and several associated agencies with more than 5 million euros for “misleading practices in the sale of energy services ” .

The procedure, arising from the “numerous consumer complaints that revealed the deception of a pre-recorded message broadcast by an ENEL answering machine and by call center operators”, has concluded with a fine of 3.4 million for the company and 1,380 million for the Conseed, Seed, Zetagroup, New Working, Run and Sofi agencies, reported the AGCM.

“The deception (was) related to the end date of the protected market, that is, of the system of greater price protection in the energy sector for small end customers. This deadline, currently scheduled for January 10, 2024, was indicated by the operators as imminent or, in any case, well in advance of the actual completion date,” he explained in a statement.

According to the Antimonopoly Authority, “in some cases, the transition from the protected market to the free energy market was presented, contrary to the truth, as mandatory. The misleading information was intended to induce consumers to sign a contract in the free energy market.” energy with ENEL”.

“Furthermore, the conduct was aggressive due to the insistent and repeated phone calls that delivered the pre-recorded message, also directed at the many consumers who had not given their prior consent to be contacted for marketing purposes.”

The agencies “knowingly carried out their sales activities using sub-agencies and individual agents – not authorized by ENEL – who improperly had lists of clients belonging to the protected market and who used an answering machine to promote ENEL’s commercial offers.”

This is considered “an unfair commercial practice because it could distort the economic behavior of consumers in relation, in addition, to a service of primary interest, such as the supply of energy services.”

With regard to ENEL, the Authority considers it “responsible for not having applied an effective control system over the ways in which its associated agencies, sub-agencies and agents linked to them contacted clients and acquired new contracts in the free market of energy, through deceptive and aggressive behavior.

“The investigation showed that ENEL was fully aware of the scope and relevance of the conduct that is the subject of the procedure, as well as its inability to adopt the appropriate measures to prevent and prevent such conduct from spreading so widely in the market,” according to the AGCM. .

ENEL regretted, in a statement, that the AGCM had not “taken into account the actions undertaken by the company, such as the innumerable complaints filed before the Judicial Authorities and the significant contractual sanctions applied, to counteract the phenomenon of unfair practices implemented by operators who act by posing as ENEL or -in a limited number of cases- violating the strict rules of conduct imposed” by it.

According to the company, it has been penalized “without any proof of direct co-responsibility” for facts for which “it does not obtain any advantage from said misconduct, but only significant economic and reputational damage” and recalled that it does not have “powers of inspection and control over third parties”.

Italy sanctions ENEL and associated agencies for misleading consumers By EFE