On September 15, 2020, the Italian Competition Authority (the “ICA”) imposed fines on Consortaxi, Taxi Napoli, Radio Taxi Partenope and Desa Radiotaxi (collectively, the “Radio Taxi Companies”) for entering into an anticompetitive agreement in the market for the collection and sorting of orders for taxi services in Naples, in violation of Article 101 of the TFEU (the “Decision”). The Decision was taken after a series of other ICA decisions aimed at investigating and preventing anticompetitive practices of radio taxi companies foreclosing the entry of competing platforms in the market for the collection and sorting of orders for taxi services in other municipalities in Italy.
The ICA opened the investigation in February 2019, on the basis of complaints submitted by Mytaxi (now Free Now) and DigiTaxi. The two competitors argued that the Radio Taxi Companies had threatened drivers to discontinue their radio taxi service, with a view to preventing them from using the competing platforms in the market for the collection and sorting of orders for taxi services in Naples.
At the same time as the opening of the investigation, the ICA initiated a procedure for the adoption of interim measures, but it eventually closed it without imposing any such measure because three of the four investigated Radio Taxi Companies withdrew from the disputed agreement. As a result of this withdrawal, the complainants could rely on a higher number of taxi drivers that could use their services so the requirement of irreparable damage that must be fulfilled in order to adopt interim measures was found to be no longer met.
The ICA’s findings
The definition of the relevant market
The ICA found that the services for the collection and sorting of orders for taxi services offered through apps were substitutable with the similar services offered by phone and radio by the Radio Taxi Companies and were therefore part of the same relevant market.
First, according to the ICA, this was demonstrated by the fact that the agreement entered into by the Radio Taxi Companies showed that they viewed the complainants, which offered services for the collection and sorting of orders for taxi services through apps, as competitors.
Secondly, the ICA found that the fact that the apps allow users to order taxis in a different way than the more traditional means of ordering taxis, such as phone and radio, offered by the Radio Taxi Companies, did not make the apps a separate relevant market. According to the ICA, the features of all platforms offering services for the collection and sorting of orders for taxi services allow consumers to order taxi services in the same way. Therefore, the means used to order taxi services has no relevance for drivers, given that they choose among available platforms on the basis of the network effects associated with their use by consumers.
Lastly, the ICA held that the relevant geographic market was Naples. It did so because the agreement entered into by the Radio Taxi Companies concerned Naples and because the purpose of such services was to allow consumers and taxi drivers to be physically in the same place within the Naples area.
The agreement entered into by the Radio Taxi Companies
Under the contested agreement, the Radio Taxi Companies were bound not to allow their respective affiliated drivers to use any application or means to order taxi services other than those approved and used by the Radio Taxi Companies themselves. The ICA held that the agreement restricted competition “by object” to the extent that the parties effectively prevented taxi drivers from using the competing platforms that were trying to enter the market. Furthermore, the ICA established that the text of the agreement (which provided, inter alia, that “taxi drivers affiliated to the above-mentioned radio taxi companies will not be able to use platforms other than those that are used by each radio taxi company”) clearly had an anticompetitive objective since it was aimed at protecting the market position of the Radio Taxi Companies and hindering the expansion and entry of competitors on the market.
The ICA also provided evidence of the various measures taken by the Radio Taxi Companies to implement the anticompetitive agreement. In this respect, it placed considerable weight on the communications – which took place in e-mail and other forms – that the parties sent to their drivers to force them to choose between their platforms and the so-called “open platforms” (such as the platforms operated by the complainants), under the threat of their exclusion from the parties’ ones.
The impact of COVID-19 on the amount of the fine
In calculating the amount of the fine, the ICA took into account the impact of COVID-19 on the parties’ revenues, on the basis of paragraph 34 of its Fining Guidelines. According to paragraph 34, the specific circumstances of a case may allow justified exceptions from strict application of the Guidelines, which must be expressly referred to in the statement of reasons of the infringement decision.
In this respect, the Decision noted that, due to the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak, demand for taxi services dropped dramatically – both at the local (-80%) and at the national level – during the pandemic, causing an extremely serious economic crisis in the sector affected by the collusive conduct. As a result, the fines imposed on the Radio Taxi Companies were reduced by 80% compared to the amounts that would have resulted from the calculation without the specific and exceptional occurrence that the ICA relied on.
 ICA Decision No. 28353, Case I832, Servizi di prenotazione del trasporto taxi – Napoli.
 See ICA Decision No. 27434, Case A521, Attività di intermediazione della domanda di servizi taxi nel Comune di Torino (ordering interim measures against the radio taxi company active in the Municipality of Turin, in the framework of an ongoing investigation into an alleged abuse of dominance); ICA Decision No. 27244, Case I801A, Servizio di prenotazione del trasporto mediante taxi – Roma; and ICA Decision No. 27245, Case I801B, Servizio di prenotazione del trasporto mediante taxi – Milano (both decisions closing cases relating to vertical agreements between radio taxi companies and taxi drivers).