On December 21, 2007, the Italian Parliament passed the
Budget Law 2008, which finally introduced into the Consumer
Code a specific statutory provision (Article 140-bis)
giving certain associations the capacity to sue collectively
for tort liability, unfair trade practice, and anti-competitive
behavior. The new law will become effective on July 1,
Under the new class-action law, bodies acting on behalf of
consumers or investors will be able to obtain a declaratory
judgment of the right to obtain compensation and the refund of
Standing to bring such a claim to protect consumers'
interests has been granted to a few entities, namely:
Consumer associations with a nationwide
Any other consumer group, investor group, or association
sufficiently representative of collective interests (as
assessed by the judge).
Those consumers and users who intend to benefit from the
protection afforded by the class-action proceedings must notify
the promoter of the class action (the "Plaintiff") as
1. First Phase
At the first hearing, the court, having heard the parties
and gathered brief information (to the extent necessary), will
examine the claim to assess admissibility.
The claim is declared inadmissible when it is clearly
groundless, when there is a conflict of interest, or whenever
the judge does not ascertain the existence of any collective
interest deserving protection pursuant to this article.
Should the judge declare the admissibility of the claim,
the Plaintiff is ordered to duly advertise the content of the
claim, in order to enable consumers to opt into the action
and take part in the proceedings; actions are also taken for
the continuation of the proceedings.
Consumers may opt into the collective action by a simple
written notice (without any particular formality) to the
Plaintiff, which must be sent no later than the hearing for
conclusions (i.e., the post-trial hearing). The
consumers will be bound by the result. The final decision shall
also produce legal effects on the consumers and users who have
joined the class action. On the other hand, individual
consumers or users who have not joined the class action or
intervened in the proceedings shall maintain the right to bring
2. Second Phase
The second phase of the proceedings will consist of a trial
to obtain the substantive declaration and the criteria for
calculating loss. The judge shall set the criteria to be used
to calculate the amount to be paid or given back to the
individual consumers and users who have joined the class action
or intervened in the proceedings. The judge shall also
establish the minimum amount to be paid to each consumer or
user, if this is possible, on the basis of the documents at his
or her disposal.
Within 60 days of the service of the decision, the company
shall make its offer for payment, by way of a written deed to
be served upon any entitled party and to be filed with the
clerk's office. Any form of proposal accepted by the
consumer or user shall be enforceable.
If the company fails to make its offer within 60 days, or if
the offer is not accepted during that time, the president of
the court shall appoint a Camera di Conciliazione
(conciliation committee) to set the amounts to be paid or given
back to the consumers and users who have joined the class
action or intervened and who so request. The Camera di
Conciliazione is composed of a lawyer duly indicated by
the Plaintiff and a lawyer indicated by the summoned company,
and it is chaired by a lawyer appointed by the president of the
1. These will be listed on a register maintained at
the Ministry of Productive Activities (now called the Ministry
of Economic Development) pursuant to Article 137 of the
Consumer Code, which indicates the requirements that have to be
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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The commencement of arbitration proceedings does not eliminate the possibility of a settlement between the parties in dispute.
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