The main legal remedies for debt in Italy
If you have Italian debtors who owe you or your company
sums of money, what are the the principal legal remedies?
On the basis of the current procedural rules, Italian law
offers two main options:
1. Ordinary Action (Azione Ordinaria), and
2. Decree for Payment (Decreto di Ingiunzione):
The Ordinary Action is – as the name would suggest –
a standard action which is notified or served upon the
debtor by way of Summons, requiring him to appear before the
court where he has his residence. The length of this process
is usually greater than that of the Decree for Payment.
The average length of an Ordinary Action is approximately 3
years up to the issuing of Judgement by the Court of First
Instance which, in Italy, is however immediately executive,
in that the debtor is obliged to pay immediately upon
Judgement being issued.
Where the debtor does not pay spontaneously it is possible
to proceed with Judicial attachment/property seizure or with
the Judicial sale of all his goods until the debt is paid
off in its entirety.
In order to initiate this type of procedure, the
documentation necessary is – a photocopy of the
documentation signed by the client, from the payment
requests, from the account statement on unstamped paper; in
any case no authentication is necessary by the Notary.
The Decree for Payment is the alternative route. The
instance must be presented before the Court where the debtor
has his residence. Once the Decree for Payment has been
issued by the Court, the debtor has forty days (commencing
from the date of notification of the Decree) in order to
Where the Decree for Payment is unopposed, the Decree
becomes executive and, therefore unchallengeable and the
debtor is obliged unconditionally to make payment of the sum
The Decree requires to be registered at the Register Office;
following this the Writ of Execution (Atto di Precetto) is
notified and the debtor’s goods will be seized/attached for
sale by the competent Court.
The duration of the phase of the Decree for Payment is
approximately 4 months from the lodging of the Motion for
Decree up to attachment of the debtor’s goods; thereafter,
the judicial sale follows. At this point, a further 12
months is necessary in order to collect sums due – again,
this depends on the efficiency of the particular Court.
Where the debtor lodges opposition, an Ordinary Action (see
above) is initiated with all the characteristics and
timescale plus the extra costs evisaged with this type of
action. In order to request a Decree for Payment it is
however necessary that an Italian Notary authenticates all
the original copies of account statements or other
documentation. As regards all the other documentary
evidence, the same applies as in the Ordinary Action above.
Where an ‘Expert Opinion’ is required, this is almost always
requested by the debtor, and is in this case paid for by
Where the debtor does not pay after notification of the
Decree for Payment it is necessary to add in the costs of
registration of the Decree, Writ of Execution, Attachment
and Judicial Sale.
Who pays the costs of Court Action?
The normal rule in most jurisdictions is that the loser in
Court has to pay the legal fees of the winner. This is also
true in Italy. However, it should be borne in mind that the
creditor will always be, in the first instance, responsible
for settling his lawyer’s costs (including court dues etc).
Where the debtor has insufficient funds to pay the creditor
either the principal sum or costs, clearly this is a cost
which the creditor will have to pay. Comas can help you
judge whether taking legal action through the courts is
commercially worthwhile, through a series of checks and
verifications of the debtor’s economic/financial profile –
Credit Recovery Report.
Comas provides a comprehensive
debt collection service in Italy, from the Extrajudicial
phase through to fully-concluded court action with decree in
the Judicial phase through a network of expert debt