Act on Market Practices and
Consumer Protection

The new Act on Market Practices and Consumer Protection has been published and came into force on 12 may 2010. This act replaces the Trade Practices Act of 14 July 1991.

The most important innovations of this new law are briefly discussed below:

1. The new act gives new definitions on enterprise, consumer and product with important consequences.

2. Price reductions

The condition that the seller must have continuously applied the same higher price during the   month prior to the price reduction has been abolished.  If a seller applied different prices during the month prior to the price reduction, this no longer prevents the seller from announcing a price reduction.  However, in such a case, the seller must always refer to the lowest prices applied for the product during the month prior to the reduction of the price.  Furthermore a seller is free to announce a price reduction in the manner he likes, only the announcement may not be misleading and the buyer must be informed of the old price or able to easily calculate the old price.

3. Seasonal sales

Sales of all kind of products are authorized.
The waiting period is only mandatory for clothing, shoes and leather products and it will be shorter. 

The requirement that a seasonal sale must take place in a physical premise has been abolished.  From now on seasonal sales can be held on the Internet.

4. Distance selling

The prohibition to request a payment prior to the end of the cancellation period is abolished.  This cancellation period is extended from 7 into 14 days.

5. Combined offers

Whereas the Trade Practices Act of 14 July 1991 provided for a general prohibition of combined offers, the new act expressly allows such orders.  Only combined offers which constitute an unfair commercial practice are prohibited. However, the prohibition of combined offers remains in force for financial services.
The European Court of Justice had condemned the Belgian prohibition of combined offers because it was contrary to the European directive 2005/29/EC concerning unfair business to consumer commercial practices in the internal market.

6. Prohibition of selling at a loss.

The prohibition of selling at loss remains in force, but the prohibition of selling with an extremely limited profit margin is abolished.

7. The act introduces a prohibition of opt-out options for internet-sales.

8. Use of languages

Labelling information required by law, user instructions and commercial warranties no longer need to be in the languages of the regions where the goods or services are sold to the consumer.

12 May 2010

Ann Vranken - ann.vranken@peeters-law.be

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