New Book on Market Practices and Consumer Protection in Economic Law Code
On 30 December 2013, the Act of 21 December 2013 introducing Book VI of the Economic Law Code on Market Practices and Consumer Protection was published in the Belgian State Gazette (“New Act”). Save for one article of the New Act relating to the Twin Peaks II reform relevant to the financial sector which has entered into force on 31 December 2013, the provisions of the New Act shall enter into force on a date to be set by Royal Decree.
In substance, the New Act aims at (i) implementing Directive 2011/83/EU on consumer rights, and (ii) integrating the provisions of the Act of 6 April 2010 on market practices and consumer protection (“MPCP Act”) in the new Belgian Economic Law Code.
Directive 2011/83/EU lays down standard rules for consumer information and common aspects of distance and off-premises contracts with consumers (especially in the context of online contracts), with a view to obtain full harmonisation among Member States. The objectives of the Directive include, among others, the elimination of hidden charges and costs on the internet, an increased price transparency, a banning of pre-ticked boxes on websites, a better right of withdrawal and refund right, and a better consumer protection in relation to digital products.
The transposition of Directive 2011/83/EU into national laws was due by 13 December 2013. Member States are to apply national laws implementing said Directive as of 13 June 2014. It may therefore reasonably be expected that the New Act shall be set to enter into force before or by that date at the latest.
In addition to the modifications warranted by Directive 2011/83/EU, the provisions of the MPCP Act have also been modified in a number of respects at the occasion of the introduction of Book VI in the Economic Law Code. Most notably, financial products (“instruments financiers”/”financiële instrumenten”) are no longer excluded from the scope of application of this legislation. Although the text of the New Act does not expressly provide for such modification, the legislative history of the New Act confirms that “financial services” are to be construed broadly and that financial products are to be covered as well. Other modifications to the MPCP Act include an updated definition of “sales at a loss”, modifications to the regime of sales and waiting periods, the deletion of the obligation to notify a liquidation, and the deletion of the King’s right to provide for specific rules regarding reimbursement or discount vouchers.