Alla luce dell’emergenza epidemica da COVID-19, anche l’International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) ha aggiornato le proprie clausole di “Force Majeure and Hardship”, introdotte per la prima volta nel 2003, al fine di aiutare le parti dei contratti internazionali a ristabilire in circostanze eccezionali l’equilibrio del sinallagma contrattuale, garantendo soprattutto la certezza nei traffici giuridici (si v. https://iccwbo.org/publication/icc-force-majeure-and-hardship-clauses/).
Nello specifico, al fine di rispondere alle emerse esigenze, da un lato, di semplificazione delle clausole previgenti, e, dall’altro lato, di soddisfazione di esigenze concernenti imprese tra loro estremamente eterogenee l’ICC ha introdotto ex novo una clausola di “Force Majeure” in forma abbreviata (ICC FORCE MAJEURE CLAUSE – SHORT FORM), che non copre necessariamente tutti i problemi di forza maggiore, ma comunque detta alcune disposizioni essenziali riguardanti le più importanti questioni di forza maggiore, in tal modo rilevandosi particolarmente adatta e utile all’uso da parte delle PMI.
La nuova disposizione dell’ICC, infatti, prevede che:
«1. “Force Majeure” means the occurrence of an event or circumstance that prevents or impedes a party from performing one or more of its contractual obligations under the contract, if and to the extent that that party proves: [a] that such impediment is beyond its reasonable control; and [b] that it could not reasonably have been foreseen at the time of the conclusion of the contract; and [c] that the effects of the impediment could not reasonably have been avoided or overcome by the affected party.
2. In the absence of proof to the contrary, the following events affecting a party shall be presumed to fulfil conditions (a) and (b) under paragraph 1 of this Clause: (i) war (whether declared or not), hostilities, invasion, act of foreign enemies, extensive military mobilisation; (ii) civil war, riot, rebellion and revolution, military or usurped power, insurrection, act of terrorism, sabotage or piracy;
(iii) currency and trade restriction, embargo, sanction; (iv) act of authority whether lawful or unlawful, compliance with any law or governmental order, expropriation, seizure of works, requisition, nationalisation; (v) plague, epidemic, natural disaster or extreme natural event; (vi) explosion, fire, destruction of equipment, prolonged break-down of transport, telecommunication, information system or energy; (vii) general labour disturbance such as boycott, strike and lock-out, go-slow, occupation of factories and premises.
3. A party successfully invoking this Clause is relieved from its duty to perform its obligations under the contract and from any liability in damages or from any other contractual remedy for breach of contract, from the time at which the impediment causes inability to perform, provided that the notice thereof is given without delay. If notice thereof is not given without delay, the relief is effective from the time at which notice thereof reaches the other party. Where the effect of the impediment or event invoked is temporary, the above consequences shall apply only as long as the impediment invoked impedes performance by the affected party. Where the duration of the impediment invoked has the effect of substantially depriving the contracting parties of what they were reasonably entitled to expect under the contract, either party has the right to terminate the contract by notification within a reasonable period to the other party. Unless otherwise agreed, the parties expressly agree that the contract may be terminated by either party if the duration of the impediment exceeds 120 days».
Inoltre, al fine di superare le incertezze connesse ai differenti rimedi esperibili in caso di sopravvenienze incidenti sull’equilibrio del sinallagma contrattuale a seconda della legge applicabile nel caso concreto al contratto internazionale, l’ICC ha espressamente previsto la possibilità per i contraenti, indipendentemente dal tipo di contratto e d’impresa esercitata, di inserire nel contratto una “Hardship Clause” che disciplina la fattispecie della sopravvenienza, prevedendo alternativamente la risoluzione dell’intero rapporto oppure l’adattamento ad opera dei contraenti o da parte del giudice.
Al riguardo, infatti, la nuova “Hardship Clause” proposta dall’ICC prevede:
«1. A party to a contract is bound to perform its contractual duties even if events have rendered performance more onerous than could reasonably have been anticipated at the time of the conclusion of the contract.
2. Notwithstanding paragraph 1 of this Clause, where a party to a contract proves that:
- a) the continued performance of its contractual duties has become excessively onerous due to an event beyond its reasonable control which it could not reasonably have been expected to have taken into account at the time of the conclusion of the contract; and that
- b) it could not reasonably have avoided or overcome the event or its consequences, the parties are bound, within a reasonable time of the invocation of this Clause, to negotiate alternative contractual terms which reasonably allow to overcome the consequences of the event.
3A Party to terminate: Where paragraph 2 of this Clause applies, but where the parties have been unable to agree alternative contractual terms as provided in that paragraph, the party invoking this Clause is entitled to terminate the contract, but cannot request adaptation by the judge or arbitrator without the agreement of the other party.
3B Judge adapt or terminate: Where paragraph 2 of this Clause applies, but where the parties have been unable to agree alternative contractual terms as provided for in that paragraph, either party is entitled to request the judge or arbitrator to adapt the contract with a view to restoring its equilibrium, or to terminate the contract, as appropriate.
3C Judge to terminate: Where paragraph 2 of this Clause applies, but where the parties have been unable to agree alternative contractual terms as provided in that paragraph, either party is entitled to request the judge or arbitrator to declare the termination of the contract».
In conclusione, nonostante i rimedi previsti dal nostro ordinamento agli artt. 1463 e ss. c.c., si osserva che tali clausole rappresentano degli utili modelli di regolamentazione delle sopravvenienze da cui trarre spunto per l’elaborazione di previsioni ad hoc da inserire anche nei negozi privi di elementi di internazionalità, al fine di aiutare le parti non solo a redigere testi contrattuali più rispondenti alle necessità delle parti nel caso concreto, ma specialmente per evitare l’insorgenza di futuro contenzioso.