/ Simone Brunozzi / 6 am Sat, Jun 24 2017
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  • No, Italy isn't banning the iPhone

    No, Italy isn't banning the iPhone

    On June 23rd, 2017, a lot of noise was made by an Italian newspaper that said that our new Senate Act 2484 had the potential to "ban the iPhone in Italy" (here's an English article). That's just wrong. This is a "device neutrality" bill, protecting a principle every bit as important as net neutrality, and it won't ban the iPhone, but it will protect and benefit Italians.

    The controversy stems from Article 4 of the act, which states that a consumer has the right to use any lawful software (be it open source or proprietary) on their own devices and no company can prevent the consumer from doing so. Apple's App Store model does indeed stop iPhone owners from installing rival software, and Article 4 covers this practice and others. But Article 4 doesn’t directly ban the concept of a “closed” app store.

    The law only kicks in when two conditions are met: when there is a closed app store and that store imposes unnecessary discrimination. The normal remedy in this situation would be a decades-long antitrust action at the EU level. The new law simplifies this process and gives immediate relief to ordinary people.

    Under this new bill, a complaint can be raised at the Italian competition authority, the AGCM, where it will be treated as a consumer protection case which can be resolved within Italy in just a few months.

    To be even more clear, if a software application can technically run on a device, but it gets discriminated against or banned by the company controlling the device for a non-technical reason, that would fall afoul of this law and be judged promptly on consumer protection grounds, by the Italian regulator for antitrust and consumer protection.

    This law is, in effect, a safety valve against discrimination. If there is no discrimination, nothing happens. When discrimination occurs, the case can be decided with simple and short legal procedures.

    There's no risk of a shutdown of Apple (or Microsoft!) in Italy. As a matter of fact, when Microsoft was heard at the committee of the chamber of deputies, prior to the approval, the company's execs expressed positive views on the bill. Apple declined to participate or to file a written response. Google and Facebook expressed positive opinions as well.

    We believe that this law protects consumers with a clear, fast way to protect their rights against discrimination practiced by large corporations, and resolve their cases in reasonable time.

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