Italy: Extension Del Termine Per Il Ritiro Della Merce Nei Contratti GAFTA FOB

Deadline extension for the withdrawal of goods in GAFTA FOB contracts

Una recente sentenza ha analizzato la disciplina contenuta nei contratti Gafta FOB per l'extension del termine per il ritiro da parte del compratore.

La decisione conferma il principio tradizionalmente racchiuso nella formula "time is of the essence": pattuizioni che contemplano scadenze o termini sono di regola conditions, il cui mancato rispetto dà diritto alla parte adempiente di dichiarare il contratto risolto; è imperativo dunque che l'extension venga richiesta con la massima tempestività.

Allo stesso tempo, è indispensabile valutare con grande attenzione (e cautela) le conseguenze di eventuali ritardi, e dichiarare la controparte in default solo dopo aver accertato al di là di ogni dubbio che il termine è decorso.

Infine, è essenziale accertare cosa prevede l'edizione del contratto GAFTA richiamata in contratto, perché per effetto delle revisioni periodiche dei contratti-tipo possono esservi differenze sostanziali tra una edizione e quella successiva.

Il caso1 è relativo ad un contratto di vendita di orzo francese che richiamava il contratto Gafta 64 FOB; questo contiene in particolare le seguenti clausole:

6. PERIOD OF DELIVERY

...

In case of re-sales all notices shall be passed on without delay, where possible, by telephone and confirmed on the same day in accordance with the notices clause.

...

8. EXTENSION OF DELIVERY

The contract period of delivery shall be extended by an additional period of not more than 21 consecutive days, provided that buyers serve notice claiming extension not later than the next business day following the last day of the delivery period ...

19. NOTICES

All notices required to be served on the parties pursuant to this contract shall be communicated rapidly in legible form. Methods of rapid communication for the purposes of this clause are defined and mutually recognized as:- either telex, or letter if delivered by hand on the date of writing, or telefax, or email, or other electronic means, always subject to the provision that if receipt of any notice is contested, the burden of proof of transmission shall be on the sender who shall, in the case of a dispute, establish, to the satisfaction of the arbitrator(s) or board of appeal appointed pursuant to the arbitration clause, that the notice was actually transmitted to the addressee. In case of resales/ repurchases all notices shall be served without delay by sellers on their respective buyers or vice-versa, and any notice received after 16h00 on a business day shall be deemed to have been received on the business day following. A notice to the brokers or agent shall be deemed a notice under this contract" (sottolineatura nostra)

Il delivery period era "10 november/10 december 2010 at buyer's option". Dal momento che il 10 dicembre cadeva di venerdì il "next business day following the last day of the delivery period" entro il quale parte acquirente avrebbe dovuto trasmettere la notice con la richiesta di estensione in base all'articolo 8 cadeva il successivo lunedì 13 dicembre.

La nave scelta aveva subito ritardi ed i compratori dunque avevano trasmesso la notice richiedendo l'extension alle ore 17.09 del 13 dicembre.

La venditrice aveva sostenuto che la notice (in quanto trasmessa dopo le 16.00) in base alla clausola 19 del Gafta 64 doveva ritenersi ricevuta il giorno successivo, e dunque era tardiva.

L'acquirente aveva replicato che l'articolo 19 faceva riferimento esclusivamente alle ipotesi di resales/repurchases, e la extension era al contrario tempestiva.

Il Board of Appeal della Gafta (e - a seguito dell'appello proposto avverso il lodo - la High Court) hanno condiviso la posizione di parte acquirente, ritenendo che la clausola 19 non si applicasse al caso di specie, e che gli acquirenti avevano fino alla mezzanotte del 13 dicembre 2010 per trasmettere la notice.

Il contenzioso ha avuto ad oggetto la previsione contenuta nei contratti Gafta FOB nel testo successivo alla revisione del 2003.

Il testo precedente (del 2000) era sensibilmente diverso, ed aveva il seguente tenore:

'Any notice received after 16:00 hours on a business day shall be deemed to have been received on the business day following. In case of resales all notices shall be passed on without delay by Buyers to their respective Sellers or vice versa.'

La tesi sostenuta con successo in giudizio dagli acquirenti è stata che la versione del 2000 confortava la posizione di Soufflet, che era invece incompatibile con il wording della clausola introdotto nel 2003.

La sentenza in esame conferma dunque l'indispensabilità di valutare con grande attenzione quando e come dichiarare la propria controparte inadempiente, avendo cura in particolare di accertare che effettivamente sia irrimediabilmente decorso il termine previsto in contratto.

È principio consolidato nella giurisprudenza inglese (ma non dissimile è la posizione raggiunta dalla nostra giurisprudenza) che nel trading di commodities la tempestività dell'adempimento è cruciale, ed un modesto ritardo può determinare la risoluzione del contratto, anche qualora da tale ritardo non derivino conseguenze concrete per la controparte.

Tale severità è in qualche modo bilanciata dal fatto che le clausole pattuite dalle parti, o contenute nei contratti-tipo richiamati nella conferma di vendita, che fissano termini per l'adempimento delle obbligazioni nascenti dal contratto (ad esempio nomina della nave, presentazione della nave al porto di imbarco, consegna della merce, apertura della lettera di credito, consegna dei documenti) vanno interpretate in modo rigoroso e restrittivo.

Footnote

1 Soufflet Negoce SA c. Fedcominvest Europe SARL [2014] EWHC 2405

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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