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Italy: Legislation on Class Actions Enacted

(June 4, 2019) On April 18, 2019, a new law expanding the scope of class actions was published in Italy’s official gazette. The law had been approved by Parliament on April 12, 2019, and according to article 7, paragraph 1 of the law, it enters into effect 12 months after publication. (The gazette also specifies the date of the law’s entry into force as April 19, 2020.) (Law No. 31 of April 12, 2019, Provisions Concerning Class Actions) (Law No. 31), GAZZETTA UFFICIALE [G.U., OFFICIAL GAZETTE], Apr. 18, 2019, G.U. website (in Italian).)

Incorporation of Class Actions into the Civil Procedure Code

The new Law amends the Code of Civil Procedure (C.C.P.) by incorporating class actions into that Code. (C.C.P. art. 840-bis, para. 1, added by Law No. 31, art. 1(1).)  Previously, class actions only appeared in Italy’s Consumer Code, and applied only to consumer actions.  (Gennaro d’Andria, Class/Collective Actions in Italy: Overview, THOMSON REUTERS PRACTICAL LAW (May 1, 2019).)  Moreover, the Law provides that class actions are available to protect “individual homogeneous rights,” a broad category that can cover many types of disputes. (C.C.P. art. 840-bis, para. 2.) Nonprofit organizations that are registered with the government and whose statutory purpose is to protect such rights are granted standing to sue on behalf of class members. (Id.) Class actions are permissible against both public and private entities, without prejudice to the individual actions that may proceed. (Id. paras. 3–4.)

Filing of Class Actions

The class action complaint must be filed before the specialized section on companies at the respective tribunal, and will be reviewed according to summary proceedings. (C.C.P. art. 840-ter, paras. 1 & 3, added by Law No. 31, art. 1(1).) The resolution that declares the admissibility of the class action is appealable within 30 days. (Id. para. 8.) Subsequent class actions may be also submitted within the first action filed provided that the underlying claims are based on the same facts. (C.C.P. art. 840-quater, para. 1, added by Law No. 31, art. 1(1).)

Joining Class Actions

The Law sets a term for potential parties to join class actions. (C.C.P. art. 840-quinquies, para. 1, added by Law No. 31, art. 1(1).)  The judicial decision that upholds the class action must open a procedure for holders of homogeneous rights to abide by the decision. (C.C.P. art. 840-sexies, para. 1(e), added by Law No. 31, art. 1(1).)

Those joining the class action must appoint a common representative who will act on their behalf during class actions procedures. (C.C.P. art. 840-octies, para. 1, added by Law No. 31, art. 1(1).) The delegated judge who issues a final decision on the class action determines the amounts to be paid to each class member. (Id. para. 5.)

The procedure for joining the class action closes when the total amount of the credit accrued to all joining parties is reached or when, during the procedure, it is not possible to obtain “reasonable satisfaction” of the claims in their entirety. (C.C.P. art. 840-quinquiesdecies, para. 1, added by Law No. 31, art. 1(1).)

Anyone with a legal interest may file a collective restraining action to halt an action or prevent the omission of an action by a public or private entity that would harm an entire class of plaintiffs. (C.C.P. art. 840-sexiesdecies, paras. 1–2, added by Law No. 31, art. 1(1).)

Settlement or Conciliation of Class Actions

The Law allows class action members to settle their dispute with the defendant(s) through the intervention of the class representative, at the suggestion of the court at an oral hearing. (C.C.P. art. 840-quaterdecies, para. 1, added by Law No. 31, art. 1(1).)

Allocation of Monies in Class Action Decisions

 The court must abide by strict percentage-based statutory criteria to allocate the monies among class members. (C.C.P. art. 840-novies, para. 1, added by Law No. 31, art. 1(1).)

Electronic Procedures for Class Actions

The legislation provides that all communications and procedures related to class actions must be administered through electronic means. (C.C.P. arts. 196-bis, para. 1 & 196-ter, para. 1, added by Law No. 31, art. 2(1) paras. 1 & 3.)