A new law in the fight against
advertisement recruiters

Recently a law amending the Law of 6 April 2010
relative to market practices and consumer protection in the fight against the touts advertising was published
in the Belgian Official Gazette.

This law aims primarily at practices used by advertisement recruiters, by which they try to enroll some bona fide self-employed persons and companies in worthless company directories (directories available online). Without asking for anything, these self-employed persons and companies receive an extract regarding their business, from a directory, in which mistakes were made on purpose and asking them specifically to correct or supplement the information it contains. However, by doing so, they register, without realizing it, for a publication or they subscribe for publications in the directory in question and thus, binding themselves to the advertisement costs.

For several decades, the Union of Flemish self-employed persons (UNIZO) has fought against this form of advertisement solicitation. In addition, these practices were frequently denounced by the Flemish network of enterprises VOKA. However, this fight did not prove to be enough to make an end to this kind of deceptive trade practices of the advertisement recruiters. Subsequently, it appeared that some judges underestimated the dishonest nature and scope of this type of fraud.

The issue of advertisement canvassers was not exclusively a Belgian phenomenon, even on a European and global level, it was widely spread. This law is based on a successful Austrian initiative. In 2008 the European Parliament issued a report on the advertisement canvassers,  in which it was stated that the Austrian legislation should serve as a model of best practice in all countries.

In our country a new Article 97 / 1 was inserted in the Law of 6 April 2010 relative to market practices and consumer protection, as follows:
"Art. 97 / 1. It shall be prohibited for any company to recruit advertisers, either directly or through a form of payment, an order form, invoice, an offer, terms and conditions, offer of correction or any other similar document, for registration in directories, address files, telephone directories or similar lists, or files, without explicitly indicating that this survey is a contract offer and not without mentioning in the document, in bold and in the largest font used in the document, the term of the contract and the price relating thereto. "
The law also provides criminal penalties for those who do not comply.

It is very likely that these regulations will have a clear impact on the fight against the advertisement recruiters, taking the following into account:
1) it is clear that this law applies to advertisement sellers because it explicitly provides what must be taken into consideration during the prospect for advertisers in order to include the latter in the directories, mailing lists, telephone directories or lists, or similar files;
2) it covers all forms of advertising canvassing, either directly or through a form of payment, an order form, invoice, an offer of general conditions, a proposed correction or any other similar document;
3) it requires that it will be unmistakably pointed out that the recruitment is in fact a contract offer, under the condition of payment. Moreover, the obligatory written statement of the term and price of the contract in bold and in the largest fond used throughout the document, should remove every doubt towards the intentions of the advertisement recruiter.

26 September 2011

Griet Verfaillie - Ann Vranken

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