Belgian antitrust dawn raids at TUI Travel declared illegal by Brussels Court of Appeal

TUI Travel was subject to dawn raids in February and March 2006 by the Belgian Competition Prosecutor. Along with other actors in the sector, Jetair, BCD Travel, Belgian Travel Organization, American Express Corporate Travel, etc., it challenged the legality of such unannounced inspections in 2013 following the entry into force of the new Code of Economic Law "Protection of Competition". Previously, no legal disposition enabled undertakings to challenge the legality of dawn raids. This issue has been the subject of European and Belgian jurisprudence.

The parties at stake invoked two main arguments to question the legality of the dawn raids; first, they had not been authorized by an independent judge. Secondly, TUI Travel had not been entitled to challenge the raids before a court. The parties also invoked the absence of sufficient grounds for such a dawn raid, which was therefore claimed to be a fishing expedition. In a judgment of 18 February 2014, the Court of Appeal of Brussels ruled that the dawn raids were indeed illegal as they have been ordered by the former College of Prosecutors and not an independent judge.

It ordered that all the information seized during the raids be put aside and not used in the investigation.

The legality of dawn raids in the two other cases, one relating to cargo handling in the Port of Antwerp and the other in the healthcare, hygiene and perfume sector, has recently been challenged on the same grounds.