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Law-Decree 1/2012 (the so-called Liberalization Law-Decree) contains a provision (article 62) of particular interest for agro-food businesses.

The first paragraph requires agro-food product sale contracts to be in writing and to indicate the expiry date, quantity and features of the sold product, as well as the price, means of delivery and terms of payment thereof, failing which such contract shall be deemed, pursuant to paragraph five, to be null and void and an administrative fine ranging from € 516 to € 20.000 will also have to be paid (it must be pointed out that such provision is applied to B2B relationships and not to B2C relationships).

Paragraph two contains, instead, provisions protecting agro-food SMEs, such as, for example, those prohibiting the imposition of excessively onerous conditions or those prohibiting contractual clauses which subject the execution and/or the performance of a contract to the performance of obligations that are not connected with the subject-matter thereof (the breach of which is punished with an administrative fine ranging from € 516 to € 3,000.00).

Equally important, moreover, is the provision set forth in the paragraph three which requires consideration to be paid – as regards perishable goods (provided for under paragraph 4) – within 30 days and – as regards non-perishable goods – within a term of 60 days (such term runs from the delivery or withdrawal of such goods or the raising of the related invoice).

Paragraph three provides, furthermore, for the automatic accrual of interest from the date in which the legal term expires (in which case the interest rate will be increased by a further two percentage points without any possibility for the parties to agree otherwise).

The aforementioned provisions are very similar to those (relatively unknown) provisions set forth in Legislative Decree no. 231 dated October 9, 2002 which implemented the provisions contained in Directive 2000/35/EC on the application of higher interest rates for late payments in B2B transactions.

Paragraph 7 provides, finally, that the debtor’s failure to comply with the terms of payment provided for under paragraph 3 is punished with a fine ranging from € 500 to € 500.000 (the fine effectively applied will then be established on the basis of the company’s turnover, as well as on the basis of the frequency and extent with which late payments have been made).”

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