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Fernand Van Gansbeke DG Enforcement and Mediation Belgium. Enforcing Consumer Protection Legislation The Belgian Experience . 1. Introduction. Belgium : federal state - Kingdom 10,1 mio inhabitants (91 % Belgians) 3 languages (61 % Dutch - 38 % French - <1% German)

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Fernand Van GansbekeDG Enforcement and MediationBelgium

Enforcing Consumer Protection Legislation

The Belgian Experience


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1. Introduction

  • Belgium : federal state - Kingdom

  • 10,1 mio inhabitants (91 % Belgians)

  • 3 languages (61 % Dutch - 38 % French - <1% German)

  • 3 federate states (Flanders - Wallonia and Brussels Capital Region)

  • 10 provinces + Brussels Capital Region

  • 26 judicial districts

  • 589 municipalities

Thessaloniki (Greece) - 22 - 24 November 2004


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2. DG Enforcement & MediationOrganisation

  • Market Surveillance : a federal matter

  • DG Enforcement & Mediation (part of the F.P.S. Economy)

  • > 35 Acts and 250 Decrees

  • DG Enforcement & Mediation =

    economic and administrative police

    (under supervision Minister and Public Prosecutor)

    • Central offices and 7 regional offices

    • 310 officers (200 field officers)

Thessaloniki (Greece) - 22 - 24 November 2004


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3. Market Surveillance in general

  • Importance of market surveillance and consumer protection for the market economy

  • The larger market due to globalisation

  • The importance of international cooperation

  • The necessary links between public authority, consumers and the economic agents.

Thessaloniki (Greece) - 22 - 24 November 2004


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4. Protection of Consumers’Economic Interests

  • Amsterdam Treatyhorizontal policy in the EU

  • Priority for the new government

  • Nuclear priority : > 15.000 complaints per year

Thessaloniki (Greece) - 22 - 24 November 2004


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5. DG Enforcement & Mediation Role (1)

  • The basic legislation

    • >25 laws and 250 Royal Decrees

      • Trade Practices Act (>40.000 Enquiries/year)

      • Consumer Credit Act (> 1.500 Enquiries/year)

      • Matrimonial Agencies Act

      • Travel Organisation and Intermediation Contract Act

      • Time Sharing Act

      • ...

  • Evolution in priorities

Thessaloniki (Greece) - 22 - 24 November 2004


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5. DG Enforcement & Mediation Role (2)

  • How do the enforcers take action ?

    • information

    • prevention - warning procedure

    • repression

      • administrative settement

      • public prosecutor

      • administrative measures.

Thessaloniki (Greece) - 22 - 24 November 2004


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6. The role of consumer organisations

  • Advice in individual cases

  • Injunction procedure for the protection of consumer interests

  • Consumer education and information

  • Deliberation with professional organisations

Thessaloniki (Greece) - 22 - 24 November 2004


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7. Cooperation : Public Authorities and Consumer Organisations (1)

  • Consumer Organisations’ impact

  • Constant dialogue with professional organisations:

    --> through the Consumption Council

    >250 balanced opinions on consumer items

  • Consumer Information and Education

    --> time/place on TV and Radio

Thessaloniki (Greece) - 22 - 24 November 2004


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7. Cooperation : Public Authorities and Consumer Organisations (2)

  • Elaboration of Model Contracts (together with professional organisations), with mediation systems

    (--> support from Public Authority)

  • No direct subsidies from the Public Authorities in order to maintain the independency

  • The ‘CRIOC’ : study and rechearch center for the Consumer Organisations

    --> technical support for C.O.

    --> training and information for C.O.

Thessaloniki (Greece) - 22 - 24 November 2004


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8. International cooperation

  • Globalisation of economy

  • European internal market

    • Bilateral cooperation

      • Protocols FR - UK - LUX - HU

      • Pragmatic NL - DU

    • Multilateral cooperation

      • International Consumer Protection &

        Enforcement Network (ICPEN)

Thessaloniki (Greece) - 22 - 24 November 2004


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9. Latest trends in consumer protection - e-commerce

  • The dilemma

  • Surveying the internet

  • Regulatory Framework :Trade Practices Act

    + Law on e-commerce

  • Growing number of consumer complaints

Thessaloniki (Greece) - 22 - 24 November 2004


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10. Consumer protection ine-commerce (1)

  • Circumstances

    • Need for protection against new impostors

    • Special unities with enforcement services

  • Specific strategy for controlling e-commerce

    • 2 search teams of 6 officers each

    • a search day per week in special internet lab

    • registration of findings, copy of illegal items

    • warning and follow-up, or repression

Thessaloniki (Greece) - 22 - 24 November 2004


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10. Consumer Protection in e-commerce (2)

  • Technology

    • Specialised research modules

    • Identification

    • Registration

    • Inspection

Thessaloniki (Greece) - 22 - 24 November 2004














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10. Consumer Protection in e-commerce (3)

  • Findings and results after 3,5 years of exercice

    • > 3500 Belgian commercial sites examined

    • 1154 breach records -> 529 warning procedures

    • > 120 repressive actions

  • Future

    • sites aimed at the Belgian market

    • sites responding on Belgian visitors

Thessaloniki (Greece) - 22 - 24 November 2004


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11. Conclusions

  • Authorities, professional and consumer organisations have all an important role to play

  • Cross-border consumption --> need for international administrative enforcement cooperation

  • Welcome the regulation on Consumer Protection Cooperation

Thessaloniki (Greece) - 22 - 24 November 2004


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Fernand T.G. VAN GANSBEKEDG Enforcement & MediationWTC 3 - Office 9-050Boulevard Simon Bolivar 30B- 1000 BRUSSELSPhone : +32-2.208.39.17Fax : +32-2.208.39.15Email : [email protected] : www.mineco.fgov.be

Thessaloniki (Greece) - 22 - 24 November 2004


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