COBAT, the consortium which co-ordinates the collection and recycling of used lead batteries in Italy, has now amended its rules to allow any company within the industry that possesses the necessary authorisation to operate without any territorial restriction or exclusivity conditions. COBAT, however, will still monitor the industry.

According to the Commission, although the COBAT system was designed to perform a general-interest environmental service, the discrimination between waste collectors was causing a competition problem.

In 1998, a firm engaged in collecting batteries and other waste in the north of Italy complained that COBAT was opposing the company’s exports to a recycling firm in France, and also drew attention to the rigidity of the system put in place by COBAT which penalised firms not selected to operate in exclusive collection areas. According to the European Commission, COBAT also appeared to be paying Italian recycling firms much lower prices than those in force in the European market in similar products.

Following intervention from the competition authority and the Council of State in Italy, in the form of non-binding opinions, COBAT has now adopted a new system that no longer jeopardises the environmental objective of which the consortium is a guarantor, says the Commission.

Firms will now have the option of passing on the batteries to the consortium or of exporting them. Prices of used batteries sold by COBAT to the recycling firms both in Italy and abroad will now be affected by the best market price.

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