Italy's Mediaset Premium Fined for Unfair Ad Practices

42 REP Silvio Berlusconi H
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Freshly ousted Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi did not have much success in attempting to save his country's economy, and now he faces the similarly difficult task of rescuing his media empire.

The satellite broadcaster, owned by tycoon Silvio Berlusconi, could face stiffer punishments for subsequent abuses.

ROME – Mediaset Premium, the for-pay broadcaster owned by powerful Italian billionaire media tycoon Silvio Berlusconi, has been fined €120,000, or about $150,000, for unfair trade practices related to the company’s advertising.

Italian antitrust regulators alleged in a statement Tuesday that Mediaset Premium’s advertising campaign promising viewers the possibility to enjoy its service "free of charge for a limited period” mischaracterized the promotion because it automatically signed users up for an additional one-year subscription to the satellite service.

It was possible for the customer to withdraw at the end of the trial period, but the means to do so were ruled, “complicated and inadequately publicized” and valid for only a short period at the end of the trial period. It would have been more accurate to sell the promotion as offering a free month of service for subscribers who sign up for a full year, antitrust officials said.

The promotion was active from May to September of last year.

It was not immediately clear if Mediaset would appeal the ruling. If the company chooses to appeal, it would have up to 30 days to file the paperwork.

Though the amount of the fine is unlikely to impact Mediaset’s bottom line, it is significant because it means that if Mediset Premium does not appeal or if its appeal is rejected, the company could be treated more severely for future competition abuses.