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To PEC or Not To PEC

Although it may sound from the title of this post that I’m about to talk about birds, this is not the case, no.  PEC stands for ‘Posta Elettronica Certificata’, which is the Italian for ‘certified electronic mail’.

Basically, PEC is supposed to replace, or at least offer, a legally valid equivalent to, regular recorded delivery surface mail.  In other words, the letters and packages you have to sign for.

Yesterday, whilst browsing around a computer store here in Milan, I noticed a poster telling me that having a PEC email account is now a legal requirement for all businesses in Italy, including those, like me, who are registered for VAT (IVA)  in Italy.  Oh dear, I don’t have a PEC account.

Today, I looked into getting one, and came away feeling a little confused.  Why?

Chaotic Italian Legislation

Initially, the Italian government, in its wisdom, decided that everyone in business and the public sector in Italy was legally obliged  to have a PEC certified email account.  A law to this effect was introduced.  Everyone promptly complained.  This caused the Italian authorities to do an about turn on the PEC front, and the legislation was modified to render PEC email accounts non-obligatory.

Following another about turn, PEC email accounts once again became obligatory, although to make matters even more hazy, it appears as though an about, about-turn has been made once more, and, from what I’ve understood, Italian law 2 of 2009, dated 29 January this year, states that having a PEC is no longer a legal requirement.

What the situation will be in another two months time is anyone’s guess.

Nice Idea, Shame about the Implementation

One of the reasons for the messy legislation, and the uncertainty concerning making one these certified mail PEC things a legal obligation, is that the PEC system is very much Italy specific.  So while Italian companies might benefit from it while conducting business in Italy, foreign companies doing business in Italy would not be able to.  The PEC certified mail system does not appear to comply with international standards either, mainly because there are no international standards regarding email certification as yet.

Depending on your point of view Italy is either ahead of the certified mail game, or, rather, has jumped the email certification gun!

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Meanwhile, quite a number of  companies in Italy have set themselves up as certified email providers, although they are probably not doing that well in view of the confusion as to whether businesses are obliged to have such a certified email account or not.

The Need for Certified Electronic Mail

Businesses, and individuals for that matter, seem to want certified email services, and, ideally, such a service would be valid internationally.  As of writing from what I can tell, no internationally acceptable, and legally valid, standard for certified email services has been adopted.

From a legal point of view, it is already possible for companies to prove that they have received an email.  For example, the difficulty which arises when I send you something, but you claim never to have received it.  I can prove it left my computer, but unless you do something which indicates that you got the mail, it may be difficult for me to prove that the email landed in your in box.  This, in certain cases, read litigation, could cause problems.

The Italian PEC  email certification system would simplify things in circumstances such as the example given above.  However, it would only be any good in Italy.  This is in itself, I suppose, a step in the right direction as we move towards abandoning surface mail for anything other than packages.

What I do

I use an SSL connection to my email provider for both incoming and outgoing mail for added security and certainly.  That’s port 465 outgoing, and port 993 for incoming email, for the technically minded.

If I send someone something important, such as an invoice, I select the ‘Return Receipt‘ option in my Thunderbird email client, if I remember, although I usually do.  In the case that the email receipt does not arrive, I’ll call the person who I sent the email to.  Actually, I may call anyway, seeing as many recipients of emails send receipts but do not always read the attached mails in detail!  And yes, I am guilty of this, as my accountant knows.  Sorry, accountant.

Back to PEC

Whether or not the Italian PEC certified email system will ever become obligatory for businesses in Italy is still very much a question of ‘watch this space’, and for the moment, businesses must be wondering what to do.  To PEC or not to PEC, that is the question.  With apologies to Shakespeare.

Further information and sources:

Wikipedia entry on PEC in Italian:  Posta Elettronica Certificata

IBLS – Internet Business Law Services, detailed article on PEC email certfication system in English from 2007: INTERNET LAW – The Italian certified e-mail system

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