Press release issued by the Registrar
FACCIO v. ITALY
The European Court of Human Rights has declared inadmissible the application in the case of Faccio v. Italy (application no. 33/04) concerning the sealing of the applicant’s television set in a bag because he had not paid his licence fee. (The decision is available only in French.).
Bruno Antonio Faccio is an Italian national who was born in 1947 and lives in Vicenza (Italy). On 20 December 1999 he filed a request with the R.A.I. (Radiotelevisione italiana) “subscriptions bureau” to terminate his subscription to the public television service. On 29 August 2003 the tax police of Valdagno (Vicenza) sealed his television set in a nylon bag so that it could not be used.
Relying on Article 10 (freedom of expression) and Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life) of the European Convention on Human Rights, Mr Faccio complained before the Court about a violation of his right to receive information and of his right to respect for his private and family life. He alleged among other things that the act of making his television set unusable had been a disproportionate measure as it also prevented him from watching private channels. He further relied on Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 (protection of property) to the Convention.
The Court noted that it was not in dispute that the sealing of the television set had constituted interference with the applicant’s right to receive information and with his right to respect for his property and for his private life. It further found that the measure, taken under Article 10 of royal legislative decree no. 246 of 21 February 1938, had pursued a legitimate aim: to dissuade individuals from failing to pay a tax, or in other words to dissuade them from terminating their subscriptions to the public television service.
The licence fee represents a tax that is used for the financing of the public broadcasting service. In the Court’s view, as shown by the wording of Article 1 of royal legislative decree no. 246, regardless of whether or not Mr Faccio’s wished to watch programmes on public channels, the mere possession of a television set obliged him to pay the tax in question. Moreover, a system whereby viewers could watch only private channels without paying the licence fee, assuming that this was technically feasible, would amount to depriving the tax of its very nature, since it was a contribution to a community service and not the price paid by an individual in return for receiving a particular channel.
In view of the foregoing considerations and the reasonable amount of the tax (which, by way of example, amounts to 107.50 euros for 2009), the Court concluded that the measure consisting of sealing the applicant’s television set in a bag was proportionate to the aim pursued by the Italian authorities. It thus declared the application manifestly ill-founded1.
The decision is available today on the Court’s Internet site (http://www.echr.coe.int).
Piedimonte (telephone : 00 33 (0)3 90 21 42 04)
Tracey Turner-Tretz (telephone : 00 33 (0)3 88 41 35 30)
Paramy Chanthalangsy (telephone : 00 33 (0)3 88 41 28 30)
Kristina Pencheva-Malinowski (telephone : 00 33 (0)3 88 41 35 70)
Céline Menu-Lange (telephone : 00 33 (0)3 90 21 58 77)
The European Court of Human Rights was set up in Strasbourg by the Council of Europe Member States in 1959 to deal with alleged violations of the 1950 European Convention on Human Rights.
1 This summary by the Registry does not bind the Court.