Digital Law Up(to)date: Brussels Market Court annuls DPA decision against the Belgian Ministry of Finance

BE Law

In a judgment handed down on 1 December 2021 (only available in Dutch, see here), the Market Court (a section of the Court of appeal of Brussels) annulled the decision on the merits 66/2021 of 4 June 2021 (see the decision in French here and in Dutch here) of the Litigation Chamber of the Belgian Data Protection Authority (the “DPA”).

The decision of 4 June 2021 reprimanded the Belgian Ministry of Finance for not respecting the rights of the data subjects. It required the Ministry (1) to grant access to the financial file of a complainant and (2) to correct the fact that this complainant was described in the file as a “straw man” in the context of various tax investigations conducted by the Ministry of Finance.

The Belgian Ministry of Finance appealed this decision. The Market Court ruled now in its favour. Firstly, it found that if a complaint to the DPA is not used to stop a breach of the GDPR but to obtain information about a tax file (a so-called “fishing expedition”), this is an abuse of the right to complain under the GDPR. According to the Market Court, the Litigation Chamber did not sufficiently demonstrate that the complainant had no other intentions than filing a complaint for a mere violation of her privacy. The Market Court therefore concluded to a breach of the duty to state reasons. Furthermore, the Court found (in contrast to the Litigation Chamber) that the Ministry did respect the response time (one month, according to article 12(3) and (4) of the GDPR) with regard to the exercise of the rights of the data subject.

This article was co-authored by Edouard Cruysmans in his capacity of Professional Support Lawyer at Stibbe.