Libero and Virgilio, the consumer associations try to raise cash: “ready for a class action”
Codacons threatens a class action against ItaliaOnLine. The precedents force us to be wary: this is how consumer associations earn.
Obviously the disservices of Libero and Virgilio have ended up in the crosshairs of consumer associations, which are already threatening to present one or more class actions, with the aim of compensating the millions of Italians damaged by the technical problems that have sent the two mail services offline electronics.
It begins with Codacons , which announced that it had addressed a formal notice to ItaliaOnLine , the company that controls both e-mail services. The consumers’ association explains that it has asked “not only to immediately reactivate e-mail and resolve technical problems, but also to have direct compensation for all users involved in the disservice”. And then the ultimatum: “should the company deny the rights of consumers, we are ready to start a class action to protect the 9 million Italians damaged by the blackout of Libero and Virgilio”.
But how much is realistic in the claims of Codacons and all the other consumer associations that have joined in waving the threat of a class action? Isn’t this the umpteenth attempt to proselytize and get subscribers?
Yet another all-Italian distortion: the hunt for subscribers matters more than the results
Reporting the news, the Italian site DDay uses extremely critical tones to describe the work of associations such as Codacons, explaining that these associations do not have a real incentive to protect consumers, but rather to proselytize and gather new members.
The golden goose would not be the class actions themselves, but the same membership campaigns that precede any lawsuits (too often only threatened and never really presented). The reason is easily explained: consumer associations receive public funding from the MISE in proportion to the number of members. The more members there are, the more public funds they will benefit from.
“Recognised” is the key term: all the consumer associations that are recognized by the economic ministry are also those that share the pie of public money that is allocated every year to the associations for consumer protection initiatives. The money comes partly from the fines imposed by the AGCM, AgCom and the various authorities and partly from the regions and other parastatal bodies.
A small part of the contributions, 1.5 million euros, is taken from the fines imposed on the companies by the various authorities. A multi-million euro turnover
(…) Most of these consumer associations are not in fact governed by the members with their contributions as opposed to what happens abroad, but they are the classic bandwagon this time not state-owned but private fueled by state finances.
writes Roberto Pezzali on DDay.it.
In a healthy democracy, consumer associations are a fundamental resource for protecting ordinary people – who often lack the resources to receive legal assistance – from harassment by large companies. It is a pity that in Italy these realities are supported by a perverse mechanism which distorts their aims: if the economic incentive is given almost exclusively to proselytism, and not to the results obtained, the effective protection of consumers’ rights takes a back seat.
Also for this reason, according to DDay it is very unlikely that the associations will pass from words to deeds. In short, there really won’t be a class action against ItaliaOnLine. The Italian site cites a very similar case from 2011, when some of the services offered by Aruba went offline for a few days. Also on that occasion Codacons promised a class action, but it turned out that it was never presented. The association was satisfied with the reimbursements decided by Aruba itself. The aim of the initiative had already been achieved: to print new cards and secure a place in the MISE manger.