Advertising today is one of the most important tools of the competitive fight: some of the most important typical acts of unfair competition prohibited by art. 2598 of the Italian Civil Code they are carried out mainly by communicating the company to the general public;
however, it concerns not only the interests of competitors, but also the general interest in the proper functioning of the market and competition and the economic and extra-economic interests of its recipients: consumers, savers and more generally citizens. It therefore needs to provide useful information and not be deceptive or misleading.
In Italy it was soon perceived that a powerful tool such as advertising required some form of control: the first regulations date back to the 1920s and they mostly provided for the use of preventive censorship of advertising messages, which was limited to some product sectors. In the years following the end of the war, despite the extraordinary growth of the advertising phenomenon, legislative interventions were very scarce.
For a long time, however, there was no discipline that would generally prohibit misleading advertising: we ended up recognizing that it constitutes unfair competition as an act contrary to the principles of professional correctness pursuant to art. 2598 3 of the Italian Civil Code Since the right to act is reserved pursuant to art.
2601 of the Italian Civil Code to competitors and their professional associations, subject to the protection of the discipline in question, it is clear that they were only the interests of the entrepreneurial class, to which the interests of consumers are connected only in an instrumental and possible way, who are the subjects most affected by misleading advertising.
In the 1960s, the absence of an adequate legislative discipline on advertising led the most representative associations of operators in the sector to create a self-regulatory system that established the essential rules with which advertising must be standardized with a code, and ensured that compliance by means of an adequate institutional apparatus.
Hence the birth of the Institute of Advertising Self-discipline (so-called IAP), a private association-based body, which has entrusted to internal judging bodies, the Jury and the Control Committee, the task of ensuring that specific rules are observed by its members. and by anyone who has accepted them by negotiation.
The Institute has developed an Advertising Self-Regulatory Code, published for the first time in 1966 and constantly updated since then. The code binds only the associates, who, in turn, undertake to contractually oblige the subjects, possibly not associated, with whom they conclude advertising contracts to comply with it.
The advertising self-discipline code, while deriving its effectiveness from negotiation agreements between sector operators, has for a long time established the standard of conduct which companies are required to comply with in disseminating advertising messages and has ended up acquiring value also to purposes of determining the “principles of professional correctness” pursuant to art. 2598 3 of the Italian Civil Code.