On 16 March 2022, IVASS launched a public consultation on a draft regulation laying down provisions on the use of external appointed persons for the purposes of mystery shopping activities for the protection of consumers (the “Draft Regulation”), aimed at implementing for the insurance sector Article 144-bis of Legislative Decree No. 206 of 6 September 2005 (the Italian Consumer Code), which provides that - with regard to infringements against collective interests of consumers which are excluded from the application of Regulation (EU) 2017/2394 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 12 December 2017 (the “CPC Regulation”) - national competent authorities may exercise the same powers of investigation and enforcement provided under Article 9 of the CPC Regulation - and thus also the power of mystery shopping - with the possibility of using specifically appointed persons who collect data, reports and information in accordance with the powers and modalities established by their respective regulations.
The activity of mystery shopping is defined as “the activities carried out incognito by or on assignment by IVASS to an external appointee, in the context of and in support of the exercise of supervisory functions, aimed at the purchase or completion of acts preparatory to the purchase of insurance products and services, including through online/telematic channels”.
- Scope: the provisions of the Draft Regulation would apply to: (i) Italian insurance undertakings, (ii) EU insurance undertakings operating in Italy under right of establishment or under freedom to provide services, (iii) Italian branches of insurance undertakings with registered office in a third Country, (iv) Italian insurance intermediaries and EU insurance intermediaries enrolled in the List attached to the Register of insurance intermediaries kept by IVASS and (v) persons, entities, and organisations which, in whatever form, carry out functions partially included in the operational cycle of insurance undertakings limited to insurance profiles.
- Modalities for carrying out mystery shopping activities: pursuant to the Draft Regulation, when appointing an external person required to carry out mystery shopping activities, IVASS shall define the purpose, objective and subjective scope within which the external person shall perform its duties. The external appointee and any mystery shopper working on behalf of the former are also bound by professional secrecy, even after the assignment has ended.
- Requirements and duties of the external appointed person: in order to ensure the quality and reliability of mystery shopping activities, the external appointed person shall meet specific professionalism (i.e. specific skills in the specific sector and with its own organizational structure) and independence requirements. In particular, the appointed shopper must not have any links, direct or indirect, with the persons involved in the investigation or with the group to which they belong. The external person, under the direction of IVASS, to which it provides full information, would be required to carry out the task assigned to it by ensuring adequate quality standards as well as confidentiality and professional secrecy, also by its own employees and collaborators.
The public consultation on the Draft Regulation will be open until 15 April 2022.
Authored by Silvia Lolli and Davide Valloni.