NEWS – Due to Covid-19 a New Italian Law Rules on Mediation via Videoconference and the E-signature of Mediation Agreement

During the Covid-19 emergency, a new Italian law allows the full validity of mediation in a videoconference with the mandatory presence of lawyers who can sign the mediation agreement with the electronic signature and declare the authenticity of client’s signature.

Due to the Covid-19 emergency, Italian courts are closed until 11 May 2020. The final decision of the re-opening of the courts and the measures of social distance in carrying out the civil hearings have not been decided yet. It is expected that civil courts, like many public offices, will be back in full operation in September.

In the meantime, the Italian Parliament has approved an urgent Legislative Decree, issued by the Government, that allows mediation providers to carry out mediation procedures using any video conference platforms with the prior agreement of the parties and regulates how to organize the signature of the mediation agreement reached in a videoconference.

Prior to this new provision, each mediation center had to send to the Minister of Justice for approval its rules on conducting mediations in videoconference. Consequentially, many mediation centers did not provide the possibility of videoconference as some of the most frequently used platforms, like Skype or WhatsApp, were not allowed by the Minister of Justice.

From now on, the sub. 20bis of the new article of the law allows all mediation providers to use any videoconference platforms, including Skype and WhatsApp, without any approval of the Minister of Justice. Lawyers and parties connected in a videoconference with the mediator can sign all documents related to the mediation process with their electronic signature device (similar to a USB that is mandatory for all lawyers). Lawyers, using their electronic signature, can also certify the authenticity of the signature of their clients on the mediation agreement.

However, many citizens and businesses’ representatives do not have an electronic signature device and, due to the sanitary restrictions, cannot meet their lawyers in person in order to sign the power of attorney. For this reason, the sub. 20ter allows, only during the emergency period, a citizen to handwrite and sign a power of attorney to dispute valid in court or in mediation, take a photo of the power of attorney and then send this photo, together with a photo of the ID, to his/her lawyer by any electronic means, such as attachment to an email, an SMS or even via WhatsApp.

Below is the unofficial translation of the text of the law

Legislative Decree 17 March n. 18 2020

Art. 83

20. Dal 9 marzo 2020 al 11 maggio 2020 sono altresì sospesi i termini per lo svolgimento di qualunque attività nei procedimenti di mediazione ai sensi del decreto legislativo 4 marzo 2010, n. 28, nei procedimenti di negoziazione assistita ai sensi del decreto-legge 12 settembre 2014, n. 132, convertito, con modificazioni, dalla legge 10 novembre 2014, n. 162, nonché in tutti i procedimenti di risoluzione stragiudiziale delle controversie regolati dalle disposizioni vigenti, quando i predetti procedimenti siano stati introdotti o risultino già pendenti a far data dal 9 marzo fino al 11 maggio 2020. Sono conseguentemente sospesi i termini di durata massima dei medesimi procedimenti.   20. From 9 March 2020 to 11 May 2020 the limitation periods for carrying out any activity in mediation proceedings are also suspended pursuant to Legislative Decree 4 March 2010, no. 28, in assisted negotiation procedures pursuant to decree-law 12 September 2014, n. 132, converted, with modifications, by law 10 November 2014, n. 162, as well as in all the out-of-court dispute resolution procedures governed by current provisions, when the aforementioned proceedings have been introduced or are already pending from 9 March to 11 May 2020. The maximum duration of these proceedings is consequently suspended.

20-bis. Nel periodo dal 9 marzo al 30 giugno 2020, gli incontri di mediazione in ogni caso possono svolgersi in via telematica con il preventivo consenso di tutte le parti coinvolte nel procedimento. Anche successivamente a tale periodo gli incontri potranno essere svolti, con il preventivo consenso di tutte le parti coinvolte nel procedimento, in via telematica, ai sensi dell’articolo 3, comma 4, del decreto legislativo 4 marzo 2010, n. 28, mediante sistemi di videoconferenza. In caso di procedura telematica l’avvocato, che sottoscrive con firma digitale, può dichiarare autografa la sottoscrizione del proprio cliente collegato da remoto ed apposta in calce al verbale ed all’accordo di conciliazione. Il verbale relativo al procedimento di mediazione svoltosi in modalità telematica è sottoscritto dal mediatore e dagli avvocati delle parti con firma digitale ai fini dell’esecutività dell’accordo prevista dall’articolo 12 del decreto legislativo 4 marzo 2010, n. 28.   20-bis. In the period from 9 March to 30 June 2020, the mediation meetings might take place in a videoconference with the prior consent of all the parties involved in the procedure. Even after this period, the mediation meetings may be held, with the prior consent of all the parties involved in the procedure, electronically, pursuant to article 3, paragraph 4, of the legislative decree 4 March 2010, n. 28, through video conferencing systems. In case of electronic procedure, the lawyer, who sign with the digital signature, can declare authenticity of the signature of his client connected remotely and signed at the bottom of the mediation agreement. The mediation agreement concluded in a mediation procedure carried out electronically is signed by the mediator and by the lawyers of the parties with digital signature for the purposes of the enforceability of the agreement provided for in article 12 of the legislative decree 4 March 2010, n. 28.

20-ter. Fino alla cessazione delle misure di distanziamento previste dalla legislazione emergenziale in materia di prevenzione del contagio da COVID-19, nei procedimenti civili la sottoscrizione della procura alle liti può essere apposta dalla parte anche su un documento analogico trasmesso al difensore, anche in copia informatica per immagine, unitamente a copia di un documento di identità in corso di validità, anche a mezzo di strumenti di comunicazione elettronica. In tal caso, l’avvocato certifica l’autografia mediante la sola apposizione della propria firma digitale sulla copia informatica della procura. La procura si considera apposta in calce, ai sensi dell’articolo 83 del codice di procedura civile, se è congiunta all’atto cui si riferisce mediante gli strumenti informatici individuati con decreto del Ministero della giustizia.   20-ter. Until the cessation of the distancing measures provided for by the emergency legislation on the prevention of contagion from COVID-19, in civil proceedings the signing of the power of attorney to disputes can also be done by the party on an analogical document sent to the lawyer, also in an electronic copy of an image, together with a copy of a valid identity document, also by any means of electronic communication tools. In this case, the lawyer certifies the authenticity by simply affixing his digital signature to the electronic copy of the power of attorney. The power of attorney is considered to be affixed at the bottom, pursuant to Article 83 of the Code of Civil Procedure, if it is linked to the act to which it refers by means of the IT tools identified by decree of the Ministry of Justice.
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