Limitation period in commercial law

in France, Denmark, UK, Spain, Monaco, Netherlands, Italy, Poland, USA (New York), subject to the Vienna Convention on Sale of Goods, if it applies.

It is important to know how it works when you negotiate the dispute clause of an interna tional contract.                                                                                    

In France, the general time limitation is of five years, and it can only be interrupted by proceedings brought before a Court.
There are longer time limitations of ten years in construction or environmental matters or even thirty years for the ownership of a building.
It can be reduced to two years for hidden defects, employment contracts, insurance contracts or even to one year for example for transport or commercial agents.
It can be increased or reduced by one to ten years per contract.

In the UK, general time limitation is usually six years. It can be increased to ten years for real estate sale contracts or reduced to three years for product liability.

In Denmark, general time limitation is three years in commercial disputes, and it can go up to 5 years for salaries and to thirty years for environmental responsibility.

In Spain, there are special measures for interrupting the time limitation, as there are 17 autonomous provinces. If Spanish law applies, there are the following limitations as an example:

  • 6 years for movable properties
  • 30 years for immovable properties
  • 5 years for personal actions or leases
  • 3 years for salaries


In Monaco, the time limitation can be suspended thanks to mediation or conciliation, in particular.
As a general principle, for actions in rem and personal actions, the time limitation is 5 years.
Business actions are limited after 10 years.
For transport, one year.
The duration can be contractually reduced to 1 year and increased up to 7 years.

In the Netherlands, commercial time limitation is five years but there is a general time limitation of twenty years.

In Italy, the general duration is ten years.
But for tort cases, it is 5 years. For shipping, one year, Insurance one or two years.

In Poland, it is generally six years. For monetary claims, 3 years.
It can be interrupted by an acknowledgement of debt.

In Finland, the limitation period is 3 years from the knowledge of the facts, which can be extended by notice, within a maximum of 10 years from the beginning of the contract.

In Belgium, for contractual and commercial relations, it is 10 years. For non-contractual relations, between 5 and 20 years. Many exceptions: for real estate claims, 30 years, renting contracts, 5 years…

In the US (New York State), the general time limitation is six years, but it can be increased to ten years for real estate matters and extended if the person in question is absent from the US state.

In general, the time limitation starts from the day when a party knew or should have known the facts that would allow them to bring their action before the Court and is interrupted by an action brought before the court.

For International matters, there is also the Vienna Convention on the sale of goods which provides for a two-year period to act in cases of non-compliance. This convention supersedes the national law if it is not excluded by the contract.

Thierry CLERC