Will Italy’s new rules really stop nuisance phone calls?

Italy has expanded its national ‘Do Not Call’ register to include mobile phone numbers as of Wednesday. But some say this won’t be enough to deter telemarketers.

Will Italy’s new rules really stop nuisance phone calls?
Getting a lot of marketing calls on your Italian number? There's a new way to help stop them. Photo by Jonas Leupe on Unsplash

From Wednesday, July 27th, Italian residents can add mobile numbers to the registro delle opposizioni, a list intended to prevent telemarketers from calling.

The register was previously used to remove landline numbers from public telephone directories, but it has been expanded as part of a set of measures intended to reduce the amount of unwanted calls (or telefonate moleste) Italy’s residents receive.

READ ALSO: How to change your registered address in Italy

The new “register of opposition to telemarketing selvaggio” (‘wild telemarketing’) means “greater privacy protection for citizens and new obligations for operators”, Italy’s ministry for economic development said in a press release.

Listing your number on the register means “cancelling consent to the use of data by operators, who will be obliged to consult the register periodically and in any case before the start of each advertising campaign”, the ministry said.

The restrictions were first announced in May after the number of nuisance calls soared by around 20 percent compared to pre-pandemic times, with people in Italy getting an average of five per week, mainly from banks, telecommunications and energy companies.

The new rules also placed stricter limits on the use of data by telemarketers and included a ban on the use of automated or ‘robot’ marketing calls.

The penalties for companies caught breaking the rules are heavy. According to consumer rights association Codacons, telemarketing operators could face fines of up to 20 million euros for breaching the rules, while other businesses could be fined up to four percent of annual turnover.

But this still may not be enough to stop all unwanted calls, warned newspaper Corriere della Sera.

“For example, this doesn’t apply to call centres located abroad: Italian law requires them to adhere to the rules, but its difficult to apply sanctions to those operating from outside the country,” Corriere wrote.

“Illegal operators could also continue to harass phone users without the risk of incurring penalties.”

So anyone hoping these rules will mean the end of nuisance calls once and for all may find that this isn’t really the case.

But if you’re one of the many people receiving an ever-increasing number of such calls, registering could be worthwhile if it cuts them down.

READ ALSO: Beat the queues – 19 bits of Italian bureaucracy you can do online

It’s free to add a mobile number to the list and the process is much the same as for adding landline numbers to the existing register: you can submit numbers either by phone, by completing a web form, or sending an email (either PEC or regular email), 

See more information on the official website here. The site appears to be available in English as well as Italian, though the English-language version was unavailable at the time of writing.

If the register proves not to be enough to deter persistent marketers, you can also screen calls on your smartphone using the ‘Chi sta chiamando‘ (‘Who’s calling’) app, which you can find here for Apple or Android devices.

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The 7 signs that August has arrived in Italy

While summer holidays are important everywhere, Italy takes the tradition of le vacanze estive particularly seriously. Here's what to expect now that August has arrived.

The 7 signs that August has arrived in Italy

1. Cities are largely deserted

If you’re in a city or town, prepare for it to feel strangely empty away from the obvious tourist destinations.

In Rome, car journeys that once involved a half-hour battle through wild traffic become surprisingly quick and stress-free. And where are the crowds at your usual after-work drinks spot in Milan? Even the smallest towns will be noticeably quieter than usual.

READ ALSO: Ferragosto: Why the long August holidays are untouchable for Italians

This is because all sensible Italian residents have packed up and gone to the beach or the mountains for a month. Next year, you’ll know to do the same.

2. But beaches are packed

Italy was a nation of staycationers even before the pandemic, and in August it’s tutti al mare: everyone flees to the beach, or maybe the mountains, at the same time.

Expect resorts to be packed and hotels, Airbnbs and campsites to be fully booked, especially as international tourists return after two years of travel restrictions.

3. Shops have cheery ‘closed for holidays’ signs

Shop workers and owners take time off like everyone else and it’s very common for small independent businesses like bakeries, pharmacies and florists to close for up to a month.

Some will tell you when they expect to reopen, others just put a sign in the window saying ‘chiuso per ferie’ – closed for holidays.

4. The summer sales are (still) on

Those shops that do remain open – mainly large chain stores and supermarkets –  offer discounts throughout August to those dedicated shoppers who aren’t at the beach. Italy only allows two retail sales a year, and one of those runs through July and August.

5. Everyone you email is out of the office

Need to contact anyone urgently at work this month? If they’re in Italy, then too bad.

Office workers are also usually on holiday, and a great many offices close altogether for three or four weeks.

Forget about out-of-office email replies suggesting an alternative contact or that the person will be checking their email sporadically – they will be on the beach and whatever you want can wait until they are back.

This applies to banks and to any kind of government bureaucracy, and you may also have trouble getting medical appointments at this time of year.

There’s only one place to be in Italy in August, as far as many Italians are concerned. Photo by Giovanni ISOLINO / AFP

6. There are ‘red alert’ heat warnings in place

This summer has been an unusually hot one and Italy has already experienced several extreme heatwaves. But as we get into August temperatures will no doubt be high across the board, meaning the country’s health authorities put heat warnings in place on the hottest days and strongly advise people to stay out of the sun during the hottest hours of the afternoon.

7. Every major road has a traffic warning

Italy’s state police make good use of the red pen when putting together the official traffic forecast for August. All weekends feature ‘red dot’ traffic warnings as people head off on holiday, or return home.

The final weekend of August, when people head home in time for il rientro (the return to school and work in September) is also best avoided.