SBC News Google escapes €750K Dignity Decree penalty

Google escapes €750K Dignity Decree penalty

AGCOM, the Communications Authority of Italy, has been ordered to drop its €750,000 fine against Google’s Italian business. 

The decision follows a judgment made by the Administrative Court of Lazio (Rome), which cited that Google had not violated the rules of the Dignity Decree of 2018.

Google had issued an appeal to the Lazio Court contesting fines totalling €750,000 imposed by AGCOM, who deemed that Google media and advertising platforms had promoted gambling-related content to Italian audiences.

Implemented in 2019 by the former Lega-5Star coalition government, the Dignity Decree imposed a blanket ban on all forms of gambling advertising (legacy and online) and across all Italian sports (professional and amateur). 

Following the Decree’s adoption, AGCOM sought to penalise Google on several counts as the tech giant’s Search and YouTube platforms had displayed links promoting gambling content.

Standing its ground, Google insisted that infringing ad-links had been promoted by independent advertisers using its platforms. As such Google had never directly violated the terms of the Decree. 

The Lazio Court further ruled that Google had been “effective and competent” at removing illegal gambling content from its platforms and updating its advertising terms for Italian partners.

“Based on these grounds, the court cancels the fine initially imposed by AGCOM,” the Lazio Court ruled.

In wider developments, the Italian government has sanctioned the first phase of reforms to “reorganise the gambling sector”. Phase-1 of changes will focus on settling long-running licensing conflicts and tax disputes, alongside strengthening safer gambling protections. 

A reorganisation was deemed necessary by the Meloni government which has emphasised the importance of Italian gambling to the economy by “contributing €11bn to the government each year and employing around 150,000 people”.

Elsewhere, Italian media and football clubs await to see whether the government will challenge the advertising rules of the Dignity Decree at a later stage of the industry’s reorganisation.

Serie A had previously claimed that the Decree had cost them a “+ €100m shortfall per season in lost income”, as clubs could no longer promote betting sponsors.

Meanwhile Italian media continues to question why consecutive governments have upheld the Dignity Decree as a social mandate of the Lega-5Star coalition, whose chaotic tenure in government collapsed in 2019 (less than a year in government). 

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