With a decision dated last November 17 (available at this link), the Italian Antitrust Authority (AGCM) closed the investigation against the Spanish company Parclick S.L. for the infringement of the Italian Consumer Code and accepted the commitments proposed by the latter in order to make www.parclick.it – a website that compares the characteristics and prices of private car parks and allows the user to book them in advance – compliant with the law.
More specifically, the dispute concerned the application of fees, in addition to the price of the parking space, for providing the booking service via the website, variable according to the price of the parking space itself, and for choosing PayPal as a method of payment. Both of these additional amounts, in fact, were not mentioned in advance during the booking process (Paypal charges were only made clear in the General Conditions of Use of the website) and were only displayed to the user at the time of the payment.
According to the AGCM, displaying prices different from those actually charged to consumers at the end of the purchase was likely to infringe Articles 20, 21 and 22 of the Consumer Code – which prevents professionals from giving misleading information on essential elements of the contract (or to omit them), such as the price of the service and the methods by which this is calculated – because consumers were deceived on the price of the service and were induced to make a purchase that they otherwise would not have made. In addition to this, the Authority underlined that the application of additional fees for providing the service and for the use of PayPal were also likely to infringe article 62 of the Consumer Code, which prevents professionals from imposing on consumers, in relation to the choice of certain payment methods, further expenses for the use of such methods. Finally, the AGCM pointed out that the General Conditions of Use of the website designated the Court of Madrid as the exclusive competent jurisdiction, in breach of Article 66bis of the Consumer Code, according to which the competent court is that situated in the place where the consumer has his domicile or residence.
In its defence, the Spanish company argued that the fees charged for providing the service were necessary to remunerate its activity, and were displayed on the second page of the booking process, when users entered the information needed to calculate the price (e.g. type of parking, location, time). As regards to the fees charged for choosing Paypal, Parclick argued that PayPal could not be considered as merely a payment method, but as an additional service chosen by the user for which he had to pay.
In any case, in order to comply with the Consumer Code and avoid the ascertainment of the possible infringements contested by the Authority, Parclick proposed the following commitments:
– to display to the user the total final amount immediately after having selected the city and the date, to update it on the final page before confirmation of the booking, and to implement this amendment within 2 weeks of approval by the AGCM;
– to remove PayPal from the selectable payment methods;
– to offer a 5% discount on the next booking made by users who had previously booked a parking space using Paypal;
– to establish the competent jurisdiction in the consumer’s place of residence or domicile.
Since the aforementioned commitments were deemed by the AGCM to be suitable to comply with the Consumer Code, they were accepted by the Authority, which ended the proceedings without ascertaining any infringement.