Monti Government Changes Class Action and Consumer Protection Laws
On January 20, 2012, the Monti Government approved Law Decree 1/2012, which, among other things, makes it easier for consumers to bring class actions and empowers the Competition Authority to investigate unfair contract terms contained in business-to-consumer contracts.
With respect to class actions, until recently the Consumer Code set a high standard for bringing such actions by imposing upon the consumers the burden of establishing that their rights were identical in terms of the nature of the claim and the damages suffered. Under the new decree, the consumer's rights and the nature of the claim must be the same, but they need not have suffered the same damage.
Business-to-consumer contracts will now also be subject to investigation for unfair contractual terms. Interestingly, if the Authority finds that the contract terms are unfair, it will order the business to publish its finding on its website and elsewhere. Businesses can, however, pre-empt any investigation by having the Authority vet their standard consumer contracts.
The consumer protection laws have also now been extended to apply to "micro-enterprises," which are defined to include self-empoyed persons and family businesses.
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