Contributed By Linklaters
Belgium introduced the possibility of launching class actions or group actions through the adoption of the Act on Claims for Collective Redress of 28 March 2014. This Act is rather limited in scope and does not provide for a general class action open to every single market-player and individual, as is the case in other legal systems, including the USA. Considering its current scope, it is less likely to be relied upon in connection with intellectual property-related claims.
First, only consumer rights are protected (ie, rights of natural persons who are acting for purposes unrelated to any trading activities, business, craft or profession), although access to collective actions has been extended to small and medium-sized enterprises since 1 June 2018. Second, a class action can only be initiated against undertakings, and not against other consumers or public authorities. Third, a claim for collective redress will only be admissible if the damage suffered by the consumers or the small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) was the result of a breach by the undertaking of either its contractual obligations or the provisions of one of the national or European laws and regulations that are exhaustively listed in the Act. This list includes laws and regulations on the protection of competition, market practices and consumer protection, price evolution, payment and credit services, intellectual property, liability for defective products, data protection, electronic communications, the sale of financial products, pharmaceuticals regulation, etc. All other claims by consumers against undertakings fall outside the scope of application of the Act (including claims based on extra-contractual grounds for breach of a general duty of care or of any other legal provisions that do not appear in the aforementioned list).