Italy - Country Commercial Guide
Selling Factors and Techniques

Identifies common practices to be aware of when selling in this market, e.g., whether all sales material need to be in the local language.

Last published date: 2021-10-29

Overview

Many U.S. firms maintain their own sales organizations in Italy. Others sell through specialized importers or appoint sales agents who often are manufacturers’ brokers. A large, well-established Italian firm with an efficient nationwide sales organization is likely to insist on an exclusive arrangement. About 1,800 U.S. firms are represented in the Italian market through agents, branches, subsidiaries, or licenses. Of these, about half have a substantial direct capital investment in the form of stock as a sole owner or partner in an enterprise. Generally, the sales territory includes all of Italy. In other cases, the territory also covers all or part of the European Union, depending on the type of product and degree of technical support needed. Italian distributors tend to have excellent contacts within Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean Basin

Trade Promotion & Advertising

General Legislation

Laws against misleading advertisements differ widely from Member State to Member State. To respond to this issue in the internal market, the Commission adopted a directive, in force since October 1986, to establish minimum and objective criteria regarding truth in advertising.  Under the Directive, misleading advertising is defined as any “advertising which in any way, including its presentation, deceives or is likely to deceive the persons to whom it is addressed or whom it reaches and which, by reason of its deceptive nature, is likely to affect their economic behavior or which for those reasons, injures or is likely to injure a competitor.”  Member States can authorize even more extensive protection under their national laws.  The Directive was amended in October 1997 to include comparative advertising.  Comparative advertising, subject to certain conditions, is defined as “advertising which explicitly or by implication identifies a competitor or goods or services of a competitor.” Member States can, and in some cases have, restricted misleading or comparative advertising.

The European Union’s Audiovisual Media Services (AVMS) Directive establishes legislation on broadcasting activities allowed within the European Union.  Since 2009, the rules allowing for U.S.-style product placement on television with exceptions.  AVMS was revised to extend the scope of the Directive to video-sharing platforms and social media in some circumstances.  For example, children’s programming is subject to a code of conduct that includes a limit on junk food advertising to children, but organizations subject to the AVMS Directive are encouraged to do more to protect children.  Following the adoption of the 1999 Council Directive on the Sale of Consumer Goods and Associated Guarantees, product specifications, as laid down in advertising, are considered as legally binding on the seller.

 In addition, the European Union adopted Directive 2005/29/EC concerning fair business practices in a further attempt to tighten consumer protection rules.  These rules outlaw several aggressive or deceptive marketing practices such as pyramid schemes, liquidation sales when a shop is not closing down, and artificially high prices as the basis for discounts in addition to other potentially misleading advertising practices.  Certain rules on advertising to children are also established.

Key Links:

 Trade promotion in Italy

The primary trade show organizers in Italy are:

  • Fiera Milano                                                
  • Bologna Fiere                                              
  • Verona Fiere                                                
  • Rimini Fiera                                                 
  • Fiere di Parma                                            

Primary national media outlets include:

  • TV
  • RAI                                                            
  • Mediaset                                                       
  • Sky Italia (pay TV)
  • Mediaset Premium (pay TV)

Press:

  • Corriere della Sera                                    
  • Sole 24 Ore                                                   
  • La Stampa                                                     
  • La Repubblica                                             

Radio

  • Rtl 102.5                                                          
  • Rds                                                                           
  • Radio 105                                                        
  • Radio Italia                                                    
  • Radio Rai 1                                            
  • Radio 2                                                           

Below is a list of key industry publications:

Apparel

  • Fashion                                                                   
  • Linea Intima                                                        
  • Intimo Piu’ Mare                                                      

Architecture Engineering Building Products

  • Edilizia e territorio                                   

Automotive

  • Pneurama                                                     
  • Quattroruote                                                      

Construction Machinery

  • Quarry and Construction

Consumer Electronics

  • Trade – Consumer Electronics            
  • E-commerce/Digitale
  • Corcom                                                                           

Energy

  • Nuova Energia                                                           

Furniture

  • Interni                                                                               
  • DDN Design Diffusion News                            

Jewelry

  • VO + Jewels & Luxury Magazine            

Industrial Machinery

  • L’industria Meccanica                                           

Pet Products

  • Vimax                                                             
  • PetTrend                                                                 

Retail in Italy

  • Largo Consumo                                                                   
  • Sporting goods
  • Sport Industry                                                          
  • TopSport                                                                

Tourism

  • Guida Viaggi                                                
  • L’Agenzia di Viaggi                                  
  • TTG Italia                                                      

Pricing

Italian importers generally prefer price quotes on a CIF or CIP basis, since they are usually familiar with the Italian customs charges and value-added taxes levied on the product at the time of importation, but may not be familiar with U.S. costs for trucking, ocean, or air freight. Large Italian firms and department stores, however, may prefer to buy on other terms when they arrange for the shipping and insuring the goods. Quotes and invoicing are usually in terms of the currency of the selling country.

Sales made on cash terms call for payment before delivery, on delivery, or shortly thereafter, typically within 10 days from the date of delivery. A two to five % discount is given for payment of the full amount of the transaction at the end of the specified period from one to four months from the date of the invoice. The length of the period depends on the commodity involved, the credit standing of the buyer, and the marketing and sales objective of the seller. A period of up to two years is often allowed for payment of capital goods, store equipment, trucks, and similar heavy equipment.

Italian firms indicate that some U.S. suppliers are too rigid in their payment terms and have thus lost business to other suppliers. Financing is as much a competitive factor as the product itself, the delivery date, or after-sales service. While some U.S. manufacturers request payment upon receipt of the goods, more successful sellers offer terms allowing settlement of the account from 60 to 120 days following the invoice date, which is the most common practice in Italy. U.S. firms should note that Italians can be slow to pay.

The use of irrevocable letters of credit for the Italian market has declined appreciably in recent years. Although U.S. exporters sometimes require such instruments, especially when the Italian customer’s credit reputation is not well known, the growing reluctance of Italian firms to provide letters of credit has required U.S. exporters to turn to other methods to assure payment or lose the sale to other suppliers in the competitive Italian market. The Italian businessperson is reluctant to pay a high fee for a letter of credit when other suppliers or means of payment are available. U.S. firms are increasingly using the export credit insurance and guarantee programs available through the Export-Import Bank of the United States (Ex-Im Bank), the Foreign Credit Insurance Association (FCIA),  the International Development and Finance Corporation, (DFC)  American International Group – AIG Global & Political Risk Insurance Co. (AIG), Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) and other export credit insurers.

Quotes and Payment Terms

The Italian buyer may request a quote or shipment of goods under other INCOTERMS (International Commercial Terms). This is a set of international rules defining the important commercial terms and practices. By referencing INCOTERMS in contracts or invoices, both buyer and seller will have a uniform understanding of their responsibilities in an agreement. You can find copies of the 90-page publication, Guide to INCOTERMS from ICC Publishing, 156 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010, (212) 206-1150. Exporters can also obtain information from the International Chamber of Commerce website: www.iccwbo.org/ or from Dun & Bradstreet  Exporters’ Encyclopaedia.

The Italian importer may examine the merchandise for inventory purposes before customs clearance. Goods cannot clear customs without shipping documents and payment of any required customs duty, applicable value-added taxes, and excise taxes. The importer must undertake these formalities at the time of clearing customs. The importer should present import licenses, if required, within the period for which they were issued.

Sales Service/Customer Support

Conscious of the discrepancies among member states in product labeling, language use, legal guarantee and liability, the redress of which inevitably frustrates consumers in cross-border shopping, the EU institutions have launched a number of initiatives aimed at harmonizing national legislation. Suppliers within and outside the EU should be aware of existing and upcoming legislation affecting sales, service, and customer support.

Product Liability

Under the 1985 Directive on Liability of Defective Products, amended in 1999, the producer is liable for damage caused by a defect in his product. The victim must prove the existence of the defect and a causal link between defect and injury (bodily as well as material). A reduction of liability of the manufacturer is granted in cases of negligence on the part of the victim. The first step in the review process of this law was launched at the end of 2016.

Key link: Liability of Defective Products

Product Safety

The 1992 General Product Safety Directive introduced a general safety requirement at the EU level to ensure that manufacturers only place safe products on the market. It was revised in 2001 to include an obligation on the producer and distributor to notify the Commission in case of a problem with a given product, provisions for its recall, the creation of a European Product Safety Network, and a ban on exports of products to third countries that are not deemed safe in the EU. The legislation is still undergoing review.

Key link: Product Safety Legislation

Legal Warranties and After-sales Service

Under the 1999 Directive on the Sale of Consumer Goods and Associated Guarantees, professional sellers are required to provide a minimum two-year warranty on all consumer goods sold to consumers (natural persons acting for purposes outside their trade, businesses, or professions), as defined by the Directive. The remedies available to consumers in case of non-compliance are:

- Repair of the good(s);

- Replacement of the good(s);

- A price reduction; or

- Rescission of the sales contract.

Other issues pertaining to consumers’ rights and protection, such as the New Approach Directives, CE marking, quality control and data protection are dealt with in the Trade Regulations section of this report.

Key link: Sales and Guarantees

Local Professional Services

The following is a sample of service providers in Italy and the European Union. Please note that their inclusion in this guide is not an endorsement of their services.

Local service providers focusing on EU law, consulting, and business development can be viewed on the website maintained by the Commercial Service at the U.S. Mission to the European Union at: https://www.trade.gov/business-service-provider

For information on professional services located within each of the EU Member States, please see EU member state Country Commercial Guides which can be found at the following website EU Member States’ Country Commercial Guides  EU Member States’ Country Commercial Guides    

Italian market research firms:

ACNielsen Italia

Cerved Group S.p.A.: www.cerved.com

Inter@ctive Market Research: www.imrgroup.com

M&T Marketing & Trade S.r.l.’.: www.marketingtrade.it

Italian commercial banks:

Intesa Sanpaolo S.p.A.: www.intesasanpaolo.com

Unicredit Group S.p.A.: https://www.unicreditgroup.eu/en.html

Banca Nazionale del Lavoro BNL S.p.A.: www.bnl.it

Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena S.p.A.: www.mps.it

Principal Business Associations

American Chamber of Commerce in Italy, which is based in Milan

Confindustria - Confederazione Generale dell’Industria Italiana. The Confederation of Italian Industry is a principal trade association acting as an umbrella organization covering numerous industry trade associations

AIAD – Associazione Industrie per l’Aerospazio, i Sistemi e la Difesa: Italian Association of Aerospace and Defense Industries

ABI - Associazione Bancaria Italiana: Italian Banking Association

ANFIA - Associazione Nazionale fra Industrie Automobilistiche: Italian Automotive Industry Association:

ANFIA - Associazione Nazionale fra le Imprese Assicuratrici: Italian Association of Insurance Companies

ASSOFRANCHISING – Associazione Italiana del Franchising: Italian Franchising Association

CONFAPI - Confederazione Italiana della Piccola e Media Industria” Italian Confederation of Small and Medium Industries:

FARMINDUSTRIA – Associazione Nazionale dell’Industria Farmaceutica: Italian National Association of Pharmaceutical Industries

FEDERCHIMICA – Federazione Nazionale dell’Industria Chimica: Italian Federation of Chemical Industries

UNIONCAMERE - Unione Italiana delle Camere di Commercio Industria Agricoltura e Artigianato: Italian Union of the Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Handicraft and Agriculture. Umbrella organization responsible for all chambers of commerce in Italy.

For industry-specific business associations, please visit our best prospect section, which lists key contacts and resources by sector.

Organizations in Brussels focused on representing U.S. business interests and engaging with EU institutions including the European Commission, European Parliament and the Council include:  AmChamEU

Limitations on Selling U.S. Products and Services

We are not aware of any limitations on manufacturing or service sectors that prohibit non-Italians from owning or selling these businesses in Italy. For more information, please visit the Trade Barriers section in this document.