The liberalisation package will affect the retail, pharmacy, public transport, insurance and legal sectors and is aimed at shaking up Italy's sluggish economy, according to the Guardian Unlimited.
Consumer groups have applauded the measures which the Italian prime minister, Romano Prodi, called "a new beginning for the country and a change that will improve the lives of millions of Italians". But the industries affected have pledged to fight them.
Justice Minister Clemente Mastella, who is also leader of one of the eight parties in the ruling coalition, said yesterday he opposed the measures, which will also force banks to announce increases in commissions in advance and allow supermarkets to sell prescription drugs. Prodi has the support of consumer associations such as Adiconsum that say the changes will improve services and lower prices, according to Bloomberg.
Italy's economy stalled in 2005 and growth this year is set to lag that of the euro region for a sixth year. Italy has become the least productive of the dozen euro nations and ranks behind Tunisia, Botswana and Chile in the World Economic Forum's 2005-2006 Global Competitiveness Report.