During 2017, Hera received 28 warnings. These warnings mainly regard disputes raised by the supervisory bodies, concerning violations of the requirements laid down by Legislative Decree 152/2006 – the Consolidated Environmental Law – and mainly concern the Integrated Water Service and also the observance of the regulations contained in the authorisation deeds. The requirements of the supervisory bodies were met in relation to the receipt of these notifications. In two cases the decision was challenged before the relevant authorities. No warning was issued to AcegasApsAmga in 2017. With regard to the 2016 warning, AcegasApsAmga complied with the warning, as required by the authorities and presented written defence briefs. The case is still in progress.
In 2017, 163 administrative sanctions were inflicted to Hera, primarily for environmental violations. These violation disputes, raised by the supervisory bodies, refer to violations of requirements laid down by Legislative Decree 152/2006, the Consolidated Environmental Law, pertaining essentially to the integrated water service and in particular the running of the plants and the exceeding of the tabular limits. These violation disputes are administrative and defence briefs have been filed in relation to the same, with the principal aim of revoking the measures adopted by means of archiving the proceedings and, subordinately, the payment of the fine to the minimum extent envisaged by sector regulations. In one case the disciplinary measures were challenged before the relevant authorities.
Specifically, by way of Resolution no. 626 of 7 June 2017 notified on 28 August 2017, ANAC reported some alleged violations of the Procurement Code, as regards the contractual activity carried out by Hera S.p.A. and Herambiente over the previous three years in the management of the integrated waste service. In October 2017, these companies challenged the resolution before the Regional Administrative Court of Lazio.
In 2017, 24 administrative violations, primarily for environmental reasons, were notified to AcegasApsAmga. These violation disputes, raised by the supervisory bodies, refer to violations of requirements laid down by Legislative Decree 152/2006, the Consolidated Environmental Law, pertaining exclusively to the integrated water service and in particular the running of the purification treatment plants and the exceeding of the tabular limits. These violation disputes include 21 of an administrative nature and refer to alleged violations in 2016 and 2017 (mainly for the Servola treatment plant); defence briefs were filed in relation to the same, with the aim of revoking the measures adopted by means of archiving the proceedings and, subordinately, the payment of the fine to the minimum extent envisaged. The proceedings are still underway and no sanctions have been paid. In addition to the aforementioned notifications, 3 injunction orders were also issued by the Region of Friuli Venezia Giulia (relating to alleged violations in 2012) that were challenged by the Company before the Court of Trieste. These cases are still pending.
With regard to the fine inflicted by the Italian Antitrust Authority to Hera and to Herambiente in 2014 for the alleged abuse of “dominant position”, the companies have taken steps to pay an overall amount of around Euro 1.9 million. The afore-mentioned measure was subsequently challenged before the Lazio Regional Administrative Court. The date of the pertinent hearing is yet to be scheduled.
With regard to the fine inflicted in December 2016 by the Italian Antitrust Authority to Hera Spa for an alleged abuse of “economic dependence”, consisting in the breach of Legislative Decree 231/2002 as amended, concerning terms of payment for the supplies of last generation meters, Hera Spa has paid the total amount of Euro 800,000.00. An appeal to the Regional Administrative Court of Lazio against the aforementioned measure has been filed and we are waiting for the hearing to be scheduled.
In November 2015, the Italian Antitrust Authority ordered Hera Comm to pay a fine of Euro 366,000 for breaches of the Consumer Code regarding the procedures used to conclude contracts with customers. According to the Authority, Hera Comm, along with other companies in the sector, entered into some contracts without the express consent of the consumer or using methods that were detrimental to the consumer’s freedom of choice, due to not providing sufficient information about the offers and the details of the contracts. In particular, the fine concerns some contracts concluded over the phone and via sales agents, accused of pressuring consumers and preventing them from making an informed and unconditioned choice. During the proceedings, the companies brought forward proposals for improving the procedures, which consist for example in making the contractual documentation available to the consumer before the customer is committed and making a second phone call to check the consumer’s consent. Also, Hera Comm took steps to challenge the sanction measure before the Regional Administrative Court of Lazio. The Regional Administrative Court considered the question to be relevant, since should it prove to be founded, the provision would be unlawful since it was adopted by an Authority without specific competence.
In particular, the Court decided “to refer to the Court of Justice of the European Union the matter related to the interpretation of art. 27, paragraph 1 bis, of the Consumer Code in relation to the Euro-unitary provisions applicable to the electricity and natural gas supply sector, similarly to what already carried out by the Council of State, for the telecommunications sector.
At the moment, the proceedings have been suspended pending the Court’s ruling on two similar preliminary rulings.
By means of an appeal filed in 2011 with the Regional Administrative Court of Emilia-Romagna, Herambiente Spa challenged decision 251 of 20 September 2011 of the Ferrara Provincial Council concerning the “Decision regarding the screening procedure to produce energy from biomass combustion at the waste incinerator” located in Ferrara. Herambiente presented the Ferrara Provincial Authority with an application for activation of the screening procedure as per Regional Law no. 9/1999. Despite the fact that the environmental compatibility study presented by Herambiente proves that the request to replace the ancillary fuel used by the plant (methane) with a renewable energy source (cellulose wood biomass) does not have negative effects on the environment (so the conditions for the EIA procedures would not apply), the Ferrara Provincial Authority, under resolution 251 dated 20 September 2011, ruled that the project be subject to EIA. The ruling has been declared expired.