Omnibus Directive finally transposed into Belgian law

The Belgian Parliament adopted the Act that transposes the European Omnibus Directive N° 2019/2161, which aims at better enforcement and modernisation of consumer protection rules. The new Act will be signed by the King shortly and published in the official State Gazette. The new consumer protection rules will enter into effect on 28 May 2022.

The main change regards the announcement of price reductions. As from 28 May, any announcement of a price reduction must refer to the lowest price applied by the trader in the period of 30 days prior to the application of the price reduction. It will no longer be allowed to announce that a price is lower than the price applied during the last 14 days, for instance, if the price before was already lower.

This will affect the upcoming summer sales that start on Friday 1 July 2022. Any price reduction during the summer sales has to refer to the lowest price that was applied for the products concerned during the whole month of June. It will not be possible to artificially increase the price at the end of June and offer huge discounts to consumers as from 1 July.

Where a product has been on the market for less than 30 days, the reference price will be the lowest price applied by the trader during a period of not less than seven days prior to the price reduction.

When traders offer digital content or digital services, the consumers will also be protected by the law if they “pay” for the product or service by providing their personal data. The new Act will thus better protect consumers using social media who do not pay in cash for the service.

E-commerce will also be affected by the new Act. Traders offering products online will have to provide information on the main parameters determining the ranking of the products viewed by the consumer as a result of a search query. When they use consumer reviews of their products, e-commerce undertakings will have to provide information about whether, and how they ensure that, the published reviews originate from consumers who have actually used or purchased their products. This measure should reduce the number of fake reviews.

Online marketplaces will have to indicate whether or not a third party that offers products on the marketplace is a trader, on the basis of the declaration of that third party to the provider of the marketplace. This will better protect consumers whose right to withdraw from a distance-selling contract within 14 days depends on whether or not the seller is a professional trader.

Finally, the new Belgian Act prohibits dual marketing. Marketing a product in one Member State as being identical to a product marketed in other Member States, when that product is significantly different in terms of composition or characteristics, will no longer be allowed, unless justified by legitimate and objective factors.

Tom Heremans - Partner, Brussels