On 27 October 2016, Belgium's deputy prime minister and
minister of Employment, Economy and Consumer Affairs, in charge of
Foreign Trade, Kris Peeters submitted to the Federal Parliament his
General Policy Note on Economics. This policy note announces
several proposed changes to competition law procedures and
First, Book IV of the Code of Economic Law (Wetboek van
Economisch Recht / Code de droit économique),
which governs competition law, will be amended to improve
competition law procedures and thus increase the efficiency of the
Belgian Competition Authority (Belgische
Mededingingsautoriteit / Autorité belge de la
Concurrence) ("BCA"). This draft law will be
submitted for comments to members of the bar and business
stakeholders. It is expected that the draft law will be reviewed by
the Council of Ministers in Spring 2017.
Second, the policy note announces the implementation into
Belgian law of Directive 2014/104/EU of 26 November 2014 on certain
rules governing actions for damages under national law for
infringements of the competition law provisions of the Member
States and of the European Union (the "Directive"). The
Directive establishes a framework that governs actions for damages
for violations of European or national competition law (See,
VBB on Competition Law, Volume 2014, No. 11, p. 16,available at
www.vbb.com). The implementation of this Directive will bring
about a number of significant changes to Belgian competition law
and procedure. It will notably introduce into Belgian law a
rebuttable presumption that cartels cause harm and a non-rebuttable
presumption that infringements identified in decisions of the BCA
constitute a fault. It will also empower the courts to order the
disclosure of items of evidence or "relevant categories of
evidence" detained not only by parties to the trial but also
by third parties. The draft law furthermore seeks to safeguard the
efficiency of the leniency and settlement mechanisms by granting
absolute protection to leniency declarations and settlement
proposals. The draft law should be available for public
consultation very soon, as the policy note announces a consultation
in the "Fall of 2016".
Finally, the BCA, which has long suffered from a lack of staff
(See,VBB on Belgian Business Law, Volume
2015, No. 5, p. 6, available at
www.vbb.com), should soon be able to recruit new officials. A
draft regulatory framework on the statute of the BCA personnel,
necessary to hire new staff, has been drafted by the minister for
Economics and funds have been set aside for this purpose. The new
BCA officials should begin to take up their posts during the first
semester of 2017.
On 10 October 2016, the BCA had already issued a press release
announcing the beginning of the recruitment process. The BCA looks
for an undetermined number of legal investigators, an economist for
the office of the BCA's Chief Economist (Directeur
economische studies / Directeur des études
économiques), and a member of the secretariat staff.
The BCA also plans to recruit legal advisors and economic and
forensic investigators at a later stage.
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Any person who claims to be the victim of anti-competitive practices and wishes to seek compensation for the prejudice they consider to have suffered must prove before the civil courts that the three conditions of third party liability under general laws –negligence, competitive harm, and direct causal link– have been met.
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