New arbitration rules in Italy


New arbitration rules[1] came into force on 2 March 2006. The rules aim to address and incorporate recent practice, and contain provisions which support domestic arbitrations, with minimal scope for interference by the courts.

The main purpose of the reform is to improve the quality of arbitral proceedings as a whole - to make this alternative dispute resolution instrument become an appealing tool in terms of efficiency, transparency and duration.

The key issues and amendments made to the Italian arbitration regulation can be summarised as follows:

The parties may have a dispute which has arisen between them decided by an arbitrator, provided that the subject matter does not comprise rights which are not capable of being derogated or departed from under Italian Law[2]. For example, disputes between employers and their employees are not eligible for arbitration, and are subject to the mandatory competence of the ‘Labour Judge’.

  1. The parties may establish, in a specific agreement, that future disputes relating to one or more specific non-contractual relations be decided by arbitrators. For example, claims for damages and claims for unfair competition[3].

  2. The parties can grant the arbitrators the power to decide the dispute by way of a decision which merely has a contractual effect: “informal” or “free” arbitration (arbitrato irrituale). This means that the final award will have effect between the parties at a private, contractual level only and will not be capable of being enforced like an ordinary award.[4]

  3. Arbitrators may be held liable for damages caused to the parties if he or she has fraudulently (dolo) or with gross negligence (colpa grave):

  4. Arbitrators may be held liable for damages caused to the parties if he or she has fraudulently (dolo) or with gross negligence (colpa grave): 

    1. omitted or delayed acts that he or she was bound to carry out, and has been replaced as arbitrator for this reason, or has surrendered the office without a justified reason; or

    2. omitted or prevented the rendering of the award within the time limit granted by the parties or – if not agreed – by law.[5]

  5. An arbitrator may be challenged if he or she does not meet the qualifications and requirements expressly agreed by the parties.[6]

  6. If neither the parties nor the arbitrators have determined the seat of the arbitration, the seat shall be in the place where the arbitration agreement was executed. If such place is not within the Italian boundaries, the seat shall be in Rome.
    Unless the arbitration agreement provides otherwise, the arbitrators may hold hearings, perform procedural activities, and deliberate and affix their signatures on the award in places other than the seat of the arbitration. This includes locations outside of Italy. [7]

  7. Arbitrators may now apply to the Court of the arbitration seat for an order compelling witnesses to appear before the arbitral tribunal.
    The arbitrators may also request the public administration to provide written information related to activities and documents of the administration if they deem it necessary for the proceedings.[8]

  8. Should more than two parties be bound by the same arbitration agreement (‘multiparty arbitration’), each party may request that these parties are joined into the same arbitral proceedings providing:

    1. the arbitration agreement defers to a third party for the appointment of the arbitrators;

    2. the arbitrators are appointed by agreement of all parties; or

    3. the other parties, following the appointment by the original parties of an arbitrator or arbitrators, appoint by common agreement an equal number of arbitrators or entrust to a third party their appointment.

  9. The arbitrators shall decide all issues which are relevant for the decision of the dispute, even if they relate to matters that may not be the subject of an arbitration agreement.[9]

  10. Unless a time-limit has been established by the parties for the rendering of the award, the arbitrators must render the award within two hundred and forty (240) days from the date of acceptance of the appointment.
    In any case the time-limit may be extended prior to its expiry:

  1. by means of written declarations of all the parties addressed to the arbitrators; or

  2. by the president of the tribunal upon request by one of the parties, or the arbitrators after having heard the other parties.

Unless the parties have agreed otherwise, the time-limit shall be extended (only once) by one hundred and eighty (180) days, if:

  1. evidence needs to be taken;

  2. expert advice is required ex officio;

  3. an interim award or a partial award is given; or

  4. the composition of the arbitral panel has been amended or a sole arbitrator replaced.[10]

  1. The arbitration agreement may refer to existing arbitration rules. In case of conflict between the provisions of the arbitration agreement and the arbitration rules, the arbitration agreement shall prevail. Unless the parties have agreed otherwise, the rules in force on the date on which the arbitral proceedings begins shall apply.

    Should the arbitral institution decline to administer the arbitration, the arbitration agreement shall remain effective and the new arbitration rules shall be applicable[11]

The new reforms provide a model of flexible procedural rules - providing the arbitrators with various options and new powers and encouraging the acceleration of proceedings. As such, arbitration may now offer significant advantages over ordinary judicial proceedings before the Italian courts.

[1] Legislative Decree of 2 February 2006, no. 40 – Modifications of the Code of Civil Procedure regarding arbitration in Italy
[2] Pursuant to section 806 of the Italian Code of Civil Procedure
[3] (Section 808-bis ICCP)
[4] (Section 808-ter ICCP)
[5] (Section 813-ter ICCP)
[6] (Section 815 ICCP)
[7] (Section 816 ICCP)
[8] (Section 816-ter ICCP)
[9] (Section 819 ICCP)
[10] (Section 820 ICCP)
[11] (Section 832 ICCP)