Guidelines for commercial debt collection in Italy

Published on 23 February 2023 in Recovery Guidelines

This guide has been designed to provide you with essential information and practical advice on the debt recovery process in Italy. Whether you are a business or an individual looking to recover debts, this guide will take you through the key stages of debt recovery in Italy, informing you about the relevant laws and regulations, as well as best practice to maximise your chances of success.

Whether you are faced with unpaid debts or simply want to understand how the debt collection system works in Italy, this guide is designed to provide you with the knowledge you need to act effectively and responsibly.

Limitation periods for claims in Italy

In Italy, the statutory limitation period for bringing a legal action is 10 years, in accordance with article 2946 of the Civil Code. There are exceptions to this period, for example:

  • The limitation period for claims arising from leases, periodic payments, rights to compensation for damages arising from non-contractual liability is 5 years.
  • The limitation period for claims arising from transport and follow-up contracts, as well as some claims arising from insurance contracts, is one year.
  • Exceptions: the right of hotel owners to take legal action in respect of claims arising from accommodation they may rent is 6 months; the right of traders (retail trade) to take legal action in respect of claims arising from the sale of goods to private individuals (non-traders) is limited to 1 year; the right of professionals to take legal action in respect of claims relating to their fees is limited to 3 years (lawyers, inspectors, doctors).

The parties to a contract cannot change the statutory limitation periods by mutual agreement (article 2936 of the Civil Code). An acknowledgement of debt by the debtor interrupts the limitation period. If the term has already expired, legal collection is not recommended.

Debt collection procedures

In Italy, the legal payment period is 30 days, as in France, although it is not uncommon for payment periods to exceed 100 days. As a general rule, a request for payment will ensure that the invoice is paid within 7 days.

Out-of-court debt collection

The creditor must send the debtor a request for payment by registered letter with acknowledgement of receipt or by certified e-mail. Both methods allow proof of receipt of the request by the debtor.

From the date of receipt of this request for payment, a new prescription period begins, with the same duration as the previous one.

Judicial debt collection proceedings in Italy

If the debtor fails to settle the claim after receiving the request for payment, it is possible to initiate legal proceedings, provided that the claim is supported by written evidence such as contracts, purchase orders, order confirmations, invoices, delivery notes, accounting documents, written exchanges and so on. In addition, the claim must be clearly defined and due in order to initiate these proceedings.

The law applicable to invoices and claims is that of the seller's country, but it must be applied in the country of the claim. So if you are a French company, you will have to go before an Italian judge.

In Italy, you must be represented by a lawyer to appear in court.

Order for payment ("Ingiunzione di pagamento")

In Italy, an order for payment is made between the creditor and the court; the debtor is not involved. The creditor provides the judge with the evidence in his possession to prove the debt. The judge can then issue an order for payment. This is a provisional enforcement order. The debtor has 40 days to respond to the injunction, in which case ordinary civil proceedings are initiated.

Ordinary civil proceedings ("Processo ordinario di cognizione")

If your debtor refutes the claim. You will have to initiate ordinary civil proceedings, in which case the claim will have to be justified and substantial, as this will take time and a lot of work.

International procedures to recover a claims in Italy

Please note: In the case of international claims between European countries, it is always possible to take advantage of the laws in place for European trade. You can also use the European order for payment procedure and the small claims procedure.

The small claims procedure in Italy applies to claims of less than €5,000, and has the advantage of being used even for disputed claims.

The European order for payment procedure, on the other hand, applies only to uncontested claims.

Back to list