Who: Kingdom of Belgium, being the Belgian Federal Government.
When: 10 July 2014
Where: The European Court of Justice (hereafter ECJ)
Law stated as at: 9 October 2014
In the abovementioned decision the ECJ condemned Belgium due to non-EU-conforming legislation in relation to:
1) the advertising of price reductions;
2) itinerant trade;
3) the exclusion of activities of professions (self-employed), dentist and physiotherapists from the scope of the law on market practices.
The exclusion as stated under number (3) has already been corrected by the implementation of Book XIV of the Belgian Code of economic law (the ‘Code’).
Number (1) and (2) however, which were also implemented in the Code, have not been revised by the Belgian legislator. Current articles VI.18, VI19 and VI26 of the Code still require compliance with the following rules, all of which were regarded by the ECJ as incompatible with article 4 of EU Unfair Commercial Practices Directive 2005/29/EC, which prohibited member states to apply more stringent measures than foreseen in that Directive.
1. Any announcement of a price reduction must refer to the lowest price for the same product issued by the company within a timeframe of one month prior to the first day on which the new, reduced price was announced.
2. price reductions cannot be advertised during a timeframe longer than one month or less than a whole sales day.
Why this matters:
The ECJ’s decision will force Belgium to change the abovementioned articles VI.18, VI19 and VI26, which will impact the current Belgian ‘sales’ system.
Consumer organisations have reacted negatively, as they assume that an adaptation of the system will result in less transparency for consumers.
Until the formal changing of the law, judges confronted with demands based upon the “condemned” articles will have to regard these articles as non-existent for the purposes of reaching their decision.