by Giacomo Lusardi and Nicoletta Iurilli
The Italian rules on service contracts (appalto) have recently been supplemented with Section 1677-bis of the Italian Civil Code, introduced by Section 1, paragraph 819, Law No. 234 of December 30, 2021, and then replaced by Section 37-bis, Decree Law No. 36 of April 30, 2022, converted with amendments into Law No. 79 of June 29, 2022. The new provision is titled “supply of more than one service concerning the transfer of goods” and provides that “if the contract has as its subject matter, jointly, the provision of two or more logistics services relating to the activities of receiving, processing, storage, custody, dispatch, transfer and distribution of goods of another party, the rules relating to the contract of carriage apply to the activities of transfer of goods from one place to another, insofar as they are compatible” (unofficial translation).
The new provision is thus focused on the so-called “logistics operator”, who typically carries out a wide range of activities encompassing all or most of the services listed within the wording added to the Italian Civil Code. The express reference to “logistics services” and the adverb “jointly” show how Section 1677-bis is concerned with logistics while remaining within the scope of services contracts. The logistics services contract – which originated in business practice but was never qualified as a specific contract before – is thus now qualified as a subtype of the services contract. Proposals for legislative regulation of the logistics contract had already been made in the past but never resulted in concrete action due to obstacles in the approval of the relevant laws and conceptual issues.
The wording of the new provision is a clear attempt to remedy such issues. While Section 1677-bis specifies precisely what services are falling within the subject matter of the logistics services contract, it emphasizes the need to apply the rules of the contract of carriage only to the logistics activity of transferring goods. Although the new provision does not expressly linger on the rules applicable to the further services listed (e.g., deposit), it does not look like a regulatory gap, and the corresponding rules will continue to apply.
As the logistics services sector is continuously growing and is now worth more than 110 billion euros in Italy (Assologistica), the introduction of a specific provision concerning the logistics services contract also shows the attention given to it by the Italian State and government.