Short Reads

Higher fines ahead under Belgium's new competition act

Higher fines ahead under Belgium's new competition act

Higher fines ahead under Belgium's new competition act

04.07.2019 BE law

Companies beware: on 3 June 2019, a new competition act entered into force in Belgium. The new act introduces a number of modifications to procedure and sanctions, aimed at improving enforcement of competition laws as well as the functioning of competition authorities.

These changes include an increased fining cap, now based on 10% of a company's worldwide turnover, replacing the previous cap which considered only Belgian turnover. In addition, the new act forces companies to substantiate their leniency request with evidence. As a result of these changes, competition law infringements in Belgium may soon result in even more serious financial consequences – all the more reason for companies to double-check whether their existing compliance programmes will be sufficiently effective to detect potential competition law infringements under the new regime.

The most significant modifications in terms of procedure and sanctions in the new competition act include the following:

  • the maximum fine has been increased from 10% of Belgian turnover to 10% of worldwide consolidated turnover
  • clarification of restrictive practices committed by natural persons acting on behalf of companies
  • authorisations for dawn raids will now be the exclusive competence of the investigating judge in Brussels
  • streamlining of the settlement procedure
  • new rules concerning qualification of documents as confidential, both at the level of the competition authorities and at the level of the court of appeal
  • new rules on the composition of the procedural file and removal of documents unrelated to the file
  • two months to respond to the statement of objections, replacing the previous limit of one month
  • in a procedure regarding restrictive practices, the undertakings concerned can offer remedies until three days after the first day of the hearing (which will also lead to an extension of the decisionmaking period)
  • the mere recognition of an infringement is sufficient for a natural person to obtain immunity, but is not sufficient for a company to obtain leniency. Companies will have to submit evidence
  • a request of provisional measures is a “one shot”. The applicant can only submit additional written observations in answer to the submissions of the defendant if the President of the college allows (in which case the defendant has a final possibility to react)
  • provisional measures not mentioned in the request, but envisaged by the competition college, must now be submitted to the undertakings concerned for comments
  • in merger control procedures, parties can submit undertakings at the level of the college (i.e. even after the investigation phase) and can modify the concentration until the end of the oral hearing

Alongside the new act, additional modifications will also be needed to implement the ECN+ Directive of 11 December 2018.

The fundamental material and institutional provisions of the current act remain unaltered. Therefore, Belgium will maintain its prohibition on restrictive practices and abuse of dominant position, as well as merger control, just as before. However, the Belgian Parliament introduced a new kind of restrictive practice - the prohibition on abuse of economic dependence - in a separate act, which is also discussed in this newsletter: please see here.

 

This article was published in the Competition Law Newsletter of July 2019. Other articles in this newsletter:

Team

Related news

07.02.2020 BE law
Het finale Belgische ‘nationaal energie- en klimaatplan’ en de Belgische langetermijnstrategie: het geduld van de Commissie op de proef gesteld?

Articles - Op 31 december 2019 diende België, nog net op tijd, zijn definitieve nationaal energie- en klimaatplan (NEKP) in bij de Commissie. Het staat nu al vast dat het Belgische NEKP niet op applaus zal worden onthaald door de Commissie. Verder laat ook de Belgische langetermijnstrategie op zich wachten. Wat zijn de gevolgen?

Read more

06.02.2020 NL law
CDC/Kemira: Amsterdam Court of Appeal applies European principle of effectiveness to limitation periods

Short Reads - In a private enforcement case brought by CDC against Kemira, the Amsterdam Court of Appeal applies the European principle of effectiveness and rules that claims are not time-barred under Spanish, Finnish and Swedish law. With reference to the Cogeco judgment of the ECJ, the Court considers that claimants must be able to await the outcome of any administrative appeal against an infringement decision, even in relation to respondents who themselves have not filed appeals against the infringement decision.

Read more

06.02.2020 NL law
Pay-for-delay: brightened lines between object and effect restrictions

Short Reads - In its first pay-for-delay case, the ECJ has clarified the criteria determining whether settlement agreements between a patent holder of a pharmaceutical product and a generic manufacturer may have as their object or effect to restrict EU competition law. The judgment confirms the General Court’s earlier rulings in Lundbeck and Servier (see our October 2016 and December 2018 newsletters) in which it was held that pay-for-delay agreements (in these cases) constituted a restriction ‘by object’.

Read more

06.02.2020 NL law
Consumers and Sustainability: 2020 competition enforcement buzzwords

Short Reads - The ACM will include the effects of mergers on labour conditions in its review. It will also investigate excessive pricing of prescription drugs. As well as these topics, the ACM has designated the digital economy and energy transition as its 2020 focus areas. Companies can therefore expect increased enforcement to protect online consumers, and active probing of algorithms.

Read more

06.02.2020 NL law
The ACM may cast the net wide in cartel investigations

Short Reads - Companies beware: the ACM may not need to specify the scope of its investigation into suspected cartel infringements in as much detail as expected. On 14 January 2020, the Dutch Trade and Industry Appeals Tribunal upheld the ACM’s appeal against judgments of the Rotterdam District Court, which had quashed cartel fines imposed on cold storage operators. The operators had argued that the ACM was time-barred from pursuing a case against them, because the ACM had not suspended the prescription period by beginning investigative actions specifically related to the alleged infringements.

Read more

06.02.2020 NL law
Den Bosch Court of Appeal revives damages claims in Dutch prestressing steel litigation

Short Reads - On 28 January 2020, the Court of Appeal of Den Bosch issued a ruling in the Dutch prestressing steel litigation. In its ruling, the Court of Appeal overturned a 2016 judgment of the District Court of Limburg, in which it was held that civil damages claims brought by Deutsche Bahn were time-barred under German law (see our January 2017 newsletter).

Read more

This website uses cookies. Some of these cookies are essential for the technical functioning of our website and you cannot disable these cookies if you want to read our website. We also use functional cookies to ensure the website functions properly and analytical cookies to personalise content and to analyse our traffic. You can either accept or refuse these functional and analytical cookies.

Privacy – en cookieverklaring