Weak payment morale: Italian state condemned by ECJ

By DR. RODOLFO DOLCE | 17.03.2021

Anyone who receives a contract from a government agency in Germany can usually be sure that they have a solvent, punctually paying contractual partner. The average payment terms in Germany vary between eight and 30 days. We have often reported on the shock effect on the German entrepreneur when he learns of payment terms of 90 days to 120 days, which are sometimes customary in Italy.

Against this background, the expert reader of the ECJ decision of 28.1.2020 (C-122/18) is surprised insofar as it is stated in the facts that the average payment delay of the Italian State in 2016 is said to have been only 51 days. However, this was sufficient for the Luxembourg judges to find the Italian state in breach of its obligations under Article 4, paragraphs 3 and 4 of Directive 2011/7 EU. According to this, the payment period of a public body may not exceed 30 calendar days after the date of receipt of the invoice or an equivalent request for payment by the debtor.

For practitioners, it would now be interesting to ask whether the decision opens the way for civil law claims for back-payment of interest or other claims for damages.

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