On 12 May 2022, the Belgian Competition Authority (the “Authority”) issued its annual communication setting out its policy priorities for the current year. This publication, which has existed since 2014, explains how the Authority selects its formal investigations and describes its strategic and sectoral priorities for competition policy.
In its communication, the Authority highlights its recent reform following the implementation of the ECN+ Directive, which aims at strengthening national competition authorities. Aside from other substantive changes to the Belgian competition law rulebook, we remind you that a fee has been introduced for merger filings with the Authority. The Law entered into force on 17 March 2022. Under the new Law, the notifying parties have to pay a one-off filing fee of EUR 17,450 in the case of a simplified procedure and EUR 52,350 for the normal procedure. The new financial resources and an increase in its annual budget should allow the Authority to be globally more effective as well as active in informal and strategic policy, advocacy and communication. For more information on this recent reform, I refer you to our article on Novelties in Belgian Competition Law.
In line with the priority areas identified in previous years, the Authority intends to continue its actions in the following sectors:
- services to undertakings and consumers (particularly the regulated professions);
- the food industry;
- the energy sector;
- the digitalisation of the economy;
- the pharmaceutical sector;
- the telecommunications sector; and
- sports competitions.
The retail sector and public procurement are no longer included in the list of priorities. It does not mean of course that complaints will no longer be investigated.
As for the types of infringement prioritised, the Authority will seek the appropriate balance between obvious hardcore infringements and more complex or innovative cases.
The communication contains a new analysis grid of the priority cases, which will be retained for an investigation. The factors that will determine the importance of a case are the impact of the alleged infringement, the strategic importance of the case, the resources that the Authority will need to mobilise and the risk the case entails in terms of a potential result.
Finally, dawn raids are back. On 1 April 2022, the Authority confirmed an unannounced inspection in the bovine meat sector. Better safe than sorry with the CMS dawn raid app.
Annabelle Lepièce - Partner, Brussels