There is a large consensus that the current Belgian Competition
Act, which dates from 2006, needs some revision, at the very least
on a number of procedural issues. This is, in the first
instance, the result of the Court of Justice's VEBIC judgement,
but there have also been a few decisions from the Competition
Council and the Court of Appeal highlighting some shortfalls.
In addition, there are a number of topics which were not on the
agenda back in 2006, such as possible sanctions for individuals or
the introduction of a settlement procedure at a Belgian level,
which could now be included in the Belgian competition regime.
The reflection process for these possible changes coincided with
the formation of a new federal government. The new government
confirmed its support of an ambitious competition policy and
announced its intention to strengthen the efficiency of the Belgian
Competition Authority. Interestingly, the government
agreement placed its intentions regarding competition policy within
the broader framework of the fight against inflation and price
The intentions of the current government have overtaken the more
timid earlier efforts to amend some of the provisions of the
Belgian Competition Act. As a result, we may now be heading
towards a complete overhaul of the Belgian Competition Act, the
fourth since the introduction of a fully-fledged Competition Act in
the early 1990s.
The government is still working on a draft, which is expected to
be submitted to Parliament after the summer. The target is to
have the new Act in force at the beginning of 2013.
At this point, it appears that most of the proposed changes are
of an institutional nature or relate to procedural aspects of the
Belgian regime. From an institutional point, the current
set-up could significantly change, although the choice for a
dualistic system will most probably be maintained in one way or the
other. As far as the substantive law is concerned, the
current provisions on restrictive practices and merger control
would remain unchanged. However, one important and much
contested change would be to increase the jurisdiction of the
future Belgian Competition Authority to include matters of price
control, with the power to intervene against unusual or
"abnormal" price changes (whatever this notion may
mean). Such an intervention would be independent from a
finding of dominance or a restrictive agreement. This
proposal reflects the government's current focus on price
control, but it remains to be seen whether it will be introduced as
such in the Competition Act.
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