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More deregulation would boost Italy: antitrust head

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Italy’s competition watchdog on Tuesday called for more deregulation of the transport, energy and finance sectors to breathe “oxygen” into the economy struggling in the global downturn.

“The injection of massive doses of competition” is needed in these sectors, Antitrust president Antonio Catricala said in the agency’s annual report to parliament. Italians pay twice as much for auto insurance, 28 percent more for electricity and six percent more for bank overdrafts than the European average, Catricala said.

Bringing these costs in line with neighbouring countries “would give oxygen to big business … would lead to a decrease in prices and greater consumption by families,” Catricala said.

Italy must pass a law on competition that the centre-right government has mooted but has yet to draft, he urged. In the energy sector, the report noted that “despite the advanced level of liberalisation of the markets, there are some isolated parts of the country such as Sicily where dominant positions have formed artificially.”

In telecommunications, Antitrust criticised long delays in the development of a new-generation broadband network. Regarding local public services such as water supply, “they remain solidly in the hands of former municipal companies and the mechanisms for competition are slow in being set up,” Antitrust said.

Banking establishments have “shown themselves to be more solid than in other countries (but) there is little stimulation for competition (and) many cross interests between the banks in terms of both shareholders and staff.” Operators of rail, road and airport facilities also have little competition, Antitrust said.

Rome, June 15, 2010 (AFP)