Italy approves first class-action law

ROME, July 9 (Reuters) - Lawmakers on Thursday approved Italy’s first law establishing class-action lawsuits after several delays, a law criticised by several consumer groups as being unworkable.

Under the law, effective from January 2010, consumers teaming up in class actions will have to turn to the judge individually to request compensation, exposing them to possible costs and fines if the suit is rejected.

U.S.-style class-action suits allow individuals to aggregate claims into one lawsuit, giving consumers or shareholders an incentive to pursue compensation even for small sums that otherwise would have been too costly or time-consuming.

The Italian law has no retroactive effect and thus no class actions will be possible related to the collapse of food groups Cirio and Parmalat PLT.MI, airline Alitalia and U.S. bank Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc LEHMQ.PK.

The law is part of the so-called development package promoted by Development Minister Claudio Scajola, which has been before parliament for nearly a year. (Reporting by Giuseppe Fonte; Editing by David Holmes)