With the arrival of spring and the federal, regional and European elections of 25 May 2014 fast approaching, we have noticed increased legislative activity. In this edition of bTTP, we focus on some of the highlights.

An act was recently passed to grant additional protection to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Indeed, since the start of the financial crisis in 2008, the Belgian government has taken a number of measures to help SMEs access credit. Pursuant to the Act of 21 December 2013, SMEs now have consumer-like protection. The new act makes it easier to for SMEs to make early repayments and limits or excludes penalties in this regard. In addition, a code of conduct on the know your customer principle was agreed in early 2014 based on the act.

The Market Practices Act of 6 April 2010 has been incorporated into the Commercial Code, which will ultimately include 17 volumes. While the exact date of entry into force of the legislation has yet to be determined, its provisions must in principle be applied as from 13 June 2014. The most relevant changes relate to distance and off-premises contracts, the transfer of risk, sales at a loss, and the always controversial sales and pre-sales blackout periods.

New legislation is expected to be passed before 25 May 2014 relating to the taxation of savings accounts. In a country where 15% of all income earned by families in 2013 was transferred to Regulated Savings Accounts, the tax treatment of these accounts is a hot topic. Both the Belgian Constitutional Court and the Court of Justice of the European Communities have recently ruled on the subject, and new legislation must be passed.

In the current economic climate, directors should ensure that they comply with their duties to the company. In general, four duties should be taken into account: (i) the duty of loyalty (duty to avoid conflicts of interest); (ii) the duty of care and commitment; (iii) the duty of confidentiality (prohibition on the disclosure of information to third parties); and (iv) the duty to have and maintain sufficient skills. Please note that we will be organising a seminar on this topic on 13 and 18 March 2014 (see the article for further details).

Last but not least, we would like to draw your attention to the fact that as from 1 April 2014, a dismissed employee is entitled to know the reasons for his or her dismissal.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.