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Private antitrust litigation before Belgian courts: Gradual increase in follow-on damages actions

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Schoors Tom
Tom Schoors

Partner

Antwerp

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Rasking Lauren
Lauren Rasking

Senior Associate

Brussels

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12 October 2020

Over the last few years, there has been a general increase across Europe in claims for damages for harm suffered due to an infringement of (European or national) competition law, the so-called private enforcement of competition law or private antitrust litigation.

Although Belgium has an established track record in other types of proceedings relating to private enforcement of competition law (eg, actions for cease and desist of unfair market practices, or annulment of contractual obligations that violate competition law), it is not one of the key jurisdictions in Europe to bring such actions for damages, like the UK, the Netherlands, or Germany. However, things are changing slowly but surely.

In recent years, significantly more damages’ actions have been brought in Member States that do not necessarily have a history in private enforcement. This is due to the adoption of Directive 2014/104/EU of 26 November 2014 on certain rules governing actions for damages under national law for infringements of the competition law provisions of the Member States and of the European Union (the Damages Directive). The exact intention of the Damages Directive was to introduce minimum standards to ensure that victims of competition infringements could effectively exercise their right to obtain compensation.

Belgium transposed the Damages Directive by a law of 6 June 2017 that added a new chapter to the Belgian Code of Economic Law (the Transposing Law), encouraging private antitrust litigation, in particular by providing new rules to ease the claimants’ burden of proof and give broader access to evidence. At the same time, the scope of the Belgian “class action” regime was extended to include claims relating to infringements of European competition law.

As a consequence, there has been a steady increase in the number of private enforcement cases brought before Belgian courts.

In the article, available to download below, Tom Schoors and Lauren Rasking take a closer look at these developments, as well as the current legal framework for antitrust litigation in Belgium.

*This article was first published by Chambers and Partners as part of a wider publication entitled “Chambers Global Practice Guide: Antitrust Litigation 2020”.