The Competition College recently refused to initiate a Phase II investigation and approved Volvo Group Belgium's acquisition of various companies belonging to the Kant group, despite concerns that the transaction was likely to result in competition issues. This case demonstrates that a hearing before the Competition College is not just a formality and that parties can successfully contest a prosecutor's findings.
The legislature recently took steps to improve the follow-up monitoring of companies in financial difficulty and strengthen the fight against inactive companies. Companies that fail to pay their social security or value added tax debts, file their annual accounts or fulfil other administrative obligations on time will now appear on the radar of the Commercial Court's Investigative Services much earlier. The services' recently extended powers of action could lead to unfortunate surprises for some companies.
Merck Sharp & Dohme (MSD) recently sued PI Pharma before the Brussels Commercial Court for the parallel import and repackaging of one of MSD's medicinal products. MSD based its claim on the alleged violation of the first, third and fourth Bristol-Myers Squibb conditions. Although this is not the first time that the Brussels Commercial Court has been involved in a dispute over the parallel importation of medicinal products, the judgment further refines the scope of certain Bristol-Myers Squibb conditions.
Parliament recently voted into law the federal government's proposal to introduce a new chapter on insolvency into the Code of Economic Law. Among other things, the new chapter concerns the potential liability of former directors of a bankrupt company. Some of the new principles already partially existed in Belgian law, but have been amended by the new chapter, which also broadens certain concepts which will thus apply to a wider range of entities.
In the aftermath of the numerous terrorist attacks in the European Union, EU member states agreed that additional measures were needed regarding the use of passenger name record data. Belgium has implemented a legal framework for passenger name record data based on EU legislation. It is hoped that the framework will enable all actors to achieve the main aim of fighting terrorist threats and serious crime.
The act transposing the EU Damages Directive into Belgian law was recently officially published. Among other things, the implementation of the directive has established a rebuttable presumption that cartels cause harm, which did not previously exist under Belgian law. In addition, the binding effect of the Belgian Competition Authority's decisions before the Belgian courts now has a legal basis.
The Business Continuity Act aims to enable debtors in difficulty to continue their activities by restructuring their debts. One of the proceedings that the act introduced is the reorganisation of debt pursuant to a restructuring plan. The restructuring plan may consist of several measures, including the waiver of certain debts. However, none of these measures (with the exception of a temporary stay on the enforcement of claims) may be imposed on secured creditors, unless they expressly agree to it.
As part of the Federal Public Service for Mobility and Transport, the Belgian Civil Aviation Authority is responsible for developing and maintaining the Belgian Aviation Safety Programme (BASP) in accordance with EU and international requirements on behalf of the state. The cornerstones of the aviation safety policy set out in the BASP are safety management, continuous improvement and a risk-based approach.
In a recent settlement decision, the Belgian Competition Authority imposed total fines of €1.8 million on five undertakings involved in a bid-rigging cartel. The decision relates to a public tender launched in 2008 by Infrabel, the Belgian railway infrastructure operator. The tender was for the delivery and onsite installation of electrical circuit equipment and related technical assistance.
A recent Competition Authority decision is another example of its fight against vertical restraints. The Competition Authority fined yeast supplier Algist Bruggeman and its parent companies €5.5 million for resale price maintenance, exclusive customer allocation, long-term non-compete obligations and abusive exclusionary practices in the market for compressed fresh yeast and stabilised liquid fresh yeast sold to artisan and semi-artisan bakers.
The government recently undertook steps to modernise and broaden its insolvency legal framework and submitted a proposal to Parliament intended to introduce a new chapter to the Code of Economic Law. The proposal will update the Bankruptcy Act and the Business Continuity Act. The government proposal will be discussed in Parliament in the coming weeks and could be accepted before the summer recess.
In a recent judgment, the Brussels Court of Appeal ordered two parallel traders to pay provisional compensation of €3 million to the Mitsubishi Corporation for illegally importing hundreds of Mitsubishi forklift trucks which had been on the Asian market into the European Economic Area via parallel trade routes. The court held that the parallel traders had failed to provide conclusive evidence that Mitsubishi, the proprietor of the Benelux and EU trademarks, had consented to the parallel trade.
In a recent decision, the Competition Authority established the circumstances in which it will review concentrations that remain below the EU and Belgian notification thresholds. The most noteworthy part of this decision is the authority's recognition that, in certain well-defined circumstances, concentrations that fall outside the scope of the Belgian merger control regime may still be subject to review.
The Competition Authority recently closed its investigation into real estate website operator Immoweb's most-favoured nation clauses in its contracts with developers of e-commerce software used by real estate agencies. When informed of the authority's preliminary analysis, Immoweb offered to revoke the existing most-favoured nation clauses in its contracts and refrain from reintroducing them in any future contracts with software developers for five years.
Franchisees are often unable to fulfil their payment obligations. The special cooperative relationship between a franchisor and its franchisee usually leads to negotiations and contractual agreements between the parties regarding the repayment of accumulated debts. However, the franchisee may still become insolvent. A key question is whether showing leniency in the context of insolvency proceedings will be beneficial or detrimental to a franchisor.
The Business Continuity Act of January 31 2009, amended in 2013, provides for specific (court-supervised) restructuring proceedings, during which the company (or debtor) is protected against its creditors' claims so that it can reorganise its business. For debtors, one of the act's major advantages is its 'open-gate' approach. In essence, this approach means that court protection is granted if the company's continuity is threatened and the debtor files a request in this regard.
A legal vacuum has been filled with a new royal decree on the use of remote controlled aircraft in Belgian airspace. All market players ‒ from manufacturers to service providers ‒ can now develop their activities within the new legal framework, under which safety is paramount. The new regulatory regime provides the required legal certainty to commercialise and operate drones in Belgium, which has been welcomed by the sector.
The Competition Authority recently approved the divestment of four cinema complexes as part of a remedy package that it imposed on cinema operator Kinepolis following its merger with cinema chain Utopia. The divestment coincided with the publication of a report into the Belgian cinema market that highlighted ticket price increases and the market's high concentration ratio.
Suppliers are often surprised by their customers' insolvency and only at that moment discover that the goods that they delivered are unpaid. Even when a reservation of title has been inserted into the contract, the repossession of goods can be difficult in practice. Measures that can help the recovery process include ensuring that a reservation of title clause is clearly drafted and that each single good is identifiable.
The Brussels Court of Appeal recently annulled a Competition Authority decision which had established the existence of an anti-competitive agreement between three cement groups and their sector associations in the context of a standard-setting procedure. The court decided that the parties had done nothing that went beyond legitimate lobbying and normal participation in the activities of standard-setting organisations.