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New rules for online sales – The new EU directive comes into force

By 28 September 2023No Comments
Saldi online

With considerable delay compared to the European directives, on 2 April the legislative decree amending the came into force Consumer Code, a provision that aims to protect Italian consumers when it comes to purchases. 

In particular, the rules introduced affect online sales, setting new rules for e-commerce managers, but also for physical stores. The changes made seek to bring greater transparency to the selling prices of products and the discounts that merchants apply to them during the sales period.

Managers of e-commerce sites and physical stores will therefore have to adapt, to avoid risking heavy fines. Let's find out more.

The scope of application of the new rules

During the sales period, many consumers are attracted by the (apparently) affordable prices and the attractive discount percentages that promise significant savings. But that's not always the case. 

Some traders, in fact, could artificially increase the starting prices of the products, and then reduce them during the sales period, or by offering high percentages of discounts. Let's take an example: let's say we find a product on the web that interests us and which costs €100 but, thanks to a discount from 50%, we pay only €50 for it.

The discount percentage is attractive and we think it's a steal. What we don't know is that the cost of the product has been "inflated" and that its original price was actually €50. In practice, we paid full price for a product, thinking we had saved.

The one exposed here is obviously an extreme case, but it is still an incorrect practice, which the EU is trying to put a stop to and which Italy is barely adequate to. 

Focusing on our area of expertise, the new provisions concern the discounts promoted by e-commerce during online sales, and have the aim of ensuring that the discounted prices are actually convenient and not the result of misleading marketing ploys. 

The transparency of online balances

The fundamental principle of the new rules is the transparency. E-commerce stores are now required to clearly and prominently display the amount of the discount applied. This means that the original price of the product must be visible together with the discounted price, thus allowing the consumer to immediately understand how much they are actually saving. 

No more “inflated prices”

The new rules expressly prohibit inflating prices. The reference price, from which the discount is calculated, must correspond to the price actually charged by the seller in the 30 days prior to the application of the discount. This guarantees that online sales are real and not the result of deceptive strategies.

The ban on "fake" discounts

Another important aspect of the new provisions concerns the duration of the discounts. To prevent discounts from becoming a perpetual practice, and therefore not actually advantageous for the consumer, a time limit has been introduced. 

A product cannot be on sale for more than half the time it was available at full price in any one year. In other words, if a product has been sold at full price for 6 months, it cannot be discounted for more than 3 consecutive months. 

This aspect therefore goes beyond the period of online sales and instead refers to any type of discount and promotion.

The role of reviews

With the growing importance of reviews in consumer decision-making, the Code has introduced rules in this area too. E-commerce companies are now required to ensure that reviews published on their sites are authentic and not manipulated. 

Posting fake reviews or paying for positive reviews is prohibited. Furthermore, in case of suspicion on the part of consumers, e-commerce companies must provide adequate tools to report any inauthentic reviews.

The expected sanctions

Those mentioned so far were already in themselves practices considered illicit. But then what changes? First of all, the new Consumer Code expresses clear and precise rules on this topic, but the most significant change concerns sanctions. 

Violations of the new provisions are punished with pecuniary sanctions which may vary depending on the seriousness and repetition of the infringement. Furthermore, in the event of serious or repeated violations, e-commerce may be subject to temporary or permanent suspension from the sales platform.


The new rules of the Consumer Code represent an important change in consumer protection in the digital age. By ensuring greater transparency and honesty in online discount practices, it ensures that consumers can make informed purchases based on truthful information.

These rules, if applied correctly, can also help restore trust between consumers and economic operators, benefiting the entire e-commerce sector. It is essential that both sellers and consumers are well informed about these rules, to ensure a fair and transparent online sales environment.     


Contact us to know more.