The Belgian law transposing EU Directive 2019/2161 (known as the "Omnibus Directive") entered into force on 28 May 2022. Below we provide an overview of the main new obligations for Belgian and foreign businesses dealing with consumers in Belgium.
1.Extension of consumer protection to digital services provided free of charge
Consumers must be protected when they provide their personal data in exchange for digital services (or the supply of digital content). Thus, the obligations laid down in the Belgian Code of Economic Law, including with respect to the information to be provided to consumers, in particular when concluding distance contracts, are now applicable to the supply of digital content and digital services.
2.Increased price transparency
When announcing a price reduction, e.g. during an annual sales period, businesses must now inform consumers of the lowest price charged in the 30-day period prior to the reduction. If the goods have been on the market for a period of less than 30 days, the reference period to be taken into account must be longer than seven days. This obligation does not apply, in particular, to goods that are "likely to expire or deteriorate rapidly". This rule is intended to avoid misleading sales practices such as when a business normally offers a product for sale at price X (e.g. EUR 40), raises the price to Y (e.g. EUR 55) for a short period of time, and then announces that the product is "on sale" at price Z (e.g. EUR 50) using wording such as "EUR 5 off" when in reality the so-called sale price is in fact EUR 10 more than the original price.
3.Increased transparency for online marketplaces
Online marketplaces (such as Amazon, eBay and Bol.com) will have to inform consumers established in Belgium of (i) the main parameters used to rank the offers presented, (ii) whether the seller is a company or not, and (iii) how the obligations associated with the contract are divided between the seller and the platform operator.
4.New provisions on unfair trade practices
New provisions on unfair trade practices have been introduced into Belgian law.
- It is now presumed to be misleading to conduct marketing activities presenting a product, in a given Member State, as identical to one marketed in other Member States, when the products in fact have substantially different characteristics.
- It is now considered misleading to (i) ask someone to submit false reviews or recommendations about a product being sold or a service provided, (ii) misrepresent consumer reviews or (iii) claim that reviews have been submitted by consumers who used or purchased the product without taking reasonable and proportionate measures to verify that this is indeed the case.
This means that businesses must now take reasonable and proportionate measures to verify that reviews in fact come from consumers who used or purchased the product. They must also inform consumers of the measures they have taken in this regard.
The maximum fine that can be imposed on businesses for failure to comply with the new obligations is now 4% to 6% of the company's total annual turnover or, if no information on turnover is available, up to two million euros. In the event of cross-border violations, the turnover that can be taken into account to determine the fine may be that of all countries where the violation was committed.
Tanguy de Haan | Brussels | +32 2 566 8430
Florence Verhoestraete | Brussels | +32 2 566 8452
Camille De Munter | Brussels | +32 2 566 8869