PEC stands for posta elettronica certificata which means “certified email”. A certified email guarantees legal certainty of the sender’s identity, of the date and time of sending and receiving the email, and of its content. You can use it to officially write and send documents to the Italian public administration, citizens, private companies etc.. With PEC you can send a certified email, that has legal value, from your house or office, which will be received instantaneously. Costs start from a few euros per year for a basic PEC account.
PEC: what is it, why should you need a PEC address, and how to get one
What is PEC?
PEC stands for posta elettronica certificata which means “certified email”. A certified email (PEC email) is just like a traditional email, but with the difference that it guarantees legal certainty of the sender’s identity, of the date and time of sending and receiving the email, and of its content. This communication system is currently used in Italy, Switzerland, and Hong Kong.
You can think of a PEC email as an electronic registered letter (lettera raccomandata). For this reason, a PEC email is a tool you can use to officially write and send documents to the Italian public administration, citizens, private companies etc..
From the point of view of graphics, a PEC account does not differ from a regular email account. In fact, the main difference is in the electronic address, so you will have [email protected] or [email protected] etc., instead of [email protected] or [email protected] etc.. You can also insert the PEC address in your outlook, or download the messages into your Gmail account. So, writing and sending a PEC email is just like writing and sending a regular email (sender, recipient, subject, text, signature) but from a different address, which gives legal value to your email.
Why should you have a PEC address?
First of all, only businessmen, companies, and professionals (e.g.lawyers, notaries, etc.) must have a PEC address. Everyone else has no obligation to have one. If a subject obliged by law to have one, does not have a PEC address, the sender, usually, Agenzia delle Entrate or Regioni, etc., will still have to send formal letters or payment injunctions via registered letter.
However, there are many advantages to having a PEC address, especially if you are abroad.
As a matter of fact, you will not have to print out your letter, prepare an envelope, go to the post office and wait in a queue. Moreover, sending a PEC message is just like a regular email in the sense that it will not cost you anything.
In many cases, a registered letter (lettera raccomandata) takes a long time to get to its destination, or it gets lost, or is addressed to the wrong person/office, or to a general address and not to the specific office of your interest (for example in case you write to big companies or Ministries).
Therefore, especially if you live abroad, instead of sending a registered letter, with PEC you can send a certified email, that has legal value, from your house or office, which will be received instantaneously. This means that, for example, you can officially communicate with an Italian public administration even if you are abroad.
Last but not least, you will get faster answers from the recipients, (in many cases Italian public administration have an obligation to answer within thirty days from when they receive your message). Therefore, considering that the recipient receives your PEC email instantaneously, this means that it has thirty days to answer your email from when you send it and not from the day your registered letter is received (which can be 10/15/20 etc. days after you send it).
What can you do with a PEC address?
There are many things that a PEC address owner can do, such as:
- send a message that has the equivalent legal value of a registered letter;
- formally request information or documents from an Italian public administration;
- protect the copyright of a text (you send a PEC to your own address);
- send a letter to your debtor;
- formally state a fact that will have legal value;
- respond to a call for bids;
- and much more.
What do you need to do to have a PEC address?
In order to obtain a PEC address, you will only need to visit the provider’s website and follow the instructions to open a PEC account. Usually, you will need to insert your personal information, then upload a copy of your identity document, and of your Italian tax code (not always). You will then need to choose an address (e.g. [email protected]) and a password, just like any other email account. In addition to traditional access through the website of the provider, generally, you can log into your account and, thus, send and receive PEC emails through an app.
How much does it cost to open a PEC account?
There are several companies that offer PEC accounts. Usually, they all ask for a monthly/annual subscription. Costs start from a few euros per year (you can have a PEC address for 5 euros + VAT) for a basic PEC account, which generally includes a limited space (for example 1 GB) and antivirus. Obviously, the more services you want (more space, storage, etc.), the more the cost will be (for example 25/40/60 euros etc.).
Just to list a few, the most used ones are the following: LegalMail, ArubaPEC, Postecert, Register.it, Libero.
What if you are not able to write in Italian?
If you are able to write in Italian, a PEC address can be your best solution whenever you need to send a registered letter to an Italian Company, public administration, bank, etc. or even a private citizen (see above).
In some cases, depending on the recipient, you could even write your PEC message in English, just like you would do with a registered letter (but you have to keep in mind that the average Italian citizen/company/public administration is not very familiar with English).
How is it possible that a PEC message has the same legal value as a registered letter?
As said above, from a legal point of view, a PEC message is very different from a regular email message. In fact, an email sent from a PEC address proves the sender’s identity, the date and time of sending and receiving the message, and its content.
This is how it works. You log in to your PEC account (username and password), you write the text of your message, and you send it to the recipient. After you send it, you will receive two (PEC) emails from your provider:
- the first one is an acceptance receipt (ricevuta di accettazione) confirming that your message has been accepted by the system and forwarded to the recipient.
- The second one is a delivery receipt, confirming that on the day X, at the hour Y and minutes Z, your message was delivered to the recipient’s address.
After the sender receives the second email, the message is considered regularly sent to the address of delivery and acknowledged by the recipient, regardless of the fact that he/she actually opened the message. This process makes a PEC message similar to a registered letter.
Please consider that if you send a PEC message from your PEC address to an ordinary email address (for example, @gmail.com or @yahoo.com etc.), your email will still be received by the recipient, but it will not have the legal value of a pec message/registered letter. Therefore, in order for your message to have legal value as explained above, you will need to send a PEC message from your PEC address to another PEC address.
There are official databases that will allow you to verify if your recipient has an official PEC address where you can send your PEC message (for example INI-PEC).
It is advisable to type the content of your message in the “body” of the PEC message, and not only as an attachment. So, if, for example, you want to send a letter that you have signed as an attachment to your PEC message, you could also copy and paste its content in the “body” of the email, so that you are sure that the recipient will read your message which makes it certain that it comes from you (because the PEC address legally proves the sender’s identity). As a matter of fact, even though it is possible to demonstrate which files were attached to your email, the recipient could, in theory, state that, for example, the attachment was empty or the file was corrupted or unreadable.