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Competition & EU law insights

Keeping you up to date on Competition & EU law developments in Europe and beyond.

| 3 minutes read

Belgium: Belgian Competition Authority Outlines its 2024 Priorities

On 7 June 2024, the Belgian Competition Authority (“BCA”) published its priorities for the year 2024. The document offers an overview of recent developments and defines the areas which will receive increased policy attention in the coming period.

Strategic Focus on Public Procurement, Digital Sectors and the Environment

In recent years, the BCA has invested in capacity building, bolstered by the implementation of the ECN+ Directive in February 2022. This has resulted in a more robust organisational framework with specialised practices and focus groups, such as the focus group dedicated to merger control. The BCA is now poised to take further steps in proactive enforcement, for example by developing a structured strategy to detect and prosecute bid-rigging in public procurement. The BCA also intends to set up a specific focus group around sector enquiries.

Enforcement in the digital sector remains a strategic priority for the authority. The BCA intends to publish a policy note outlining its experience, approach and priorities for maintaining competitive dynamics in the digital sector in Belgium. Following the Belgian implementation of the Digital Markets Act (“DMA”), the BCA will also support the European Commission in regulating the core platform services of large online platforms, known as “gatekeepers”. To raise awareness amongst Belgian tech companies about the opportunities in this space, the BCA also intends to publish an informational brochure.

In its competition policy, the authority also intends to support Belgium's transition to a green and circular economy. The BCA aims to strike a balance between economic incentives and consumer interests in the context of evolving production and consumption patterns. The BCA reaffirms its willingness to provide informal advice and to engage with stakeholders, as demonstrated by its interaction with a sustainability initiative on liveable wages in the banana sector.

Focus Remains on Public and Technology Markets and Markets Closest to the Consumer

The BCA’s interventions will concentrate on sectors where its actions are expected to yield the greatest positive impact. Key priority sectors for 2024 include:

  1. Public Procurement: The BCA is intensifying efforts to detect and prevent bid-rigging, particularly in the construction industry, which is highly susceptible to market distortion. Companies engaged in public procurement should anticipate increased surveillance.
  2. Agro-Food Industry: In light of rising inflation and growing concerns about the market power of certain companies, the BCA will monitor pricing mechanisms and competitive practices within the entire food supply chain. Companies should anticipate potential investigations and ensure their pricing and supply agreements comply with competition laws.
  3. Digitalisation and Telecommunications: As next-generation infrastructure like fibre networks and 5G are being rolled out, the BCA will scrutinise cooperation agreements between operators. The authority’s focus will be on balancing rapid deployment and competition. 
  4. Healthcare and Pharmaceuticals: Due to its economic importance and regulatory complexities, this sector remains a priority. The BCA will concentrate on mergers and acquisitions, pricing practices, and market dynamics to ensure competitive behaviour. 
  5. Energy Sector: The BCA will closely monitor the energy market, focusing on wholesale and retail levels to prevent anti-competitive practices, especially amidst geopolitical tensions and regulatory changes. 
  6. Business and Consumer Services: The BCA will ensure competition laws are upheld in various service sectors, including financial, legal, and technical services.

Businesses active in these sectors should be prepared for increased regulatory scrutiny. It is in their interest to review their practices and regulatory compliance to mitigate the risk of enforcement actions. 

Practical Recommendations

  • Ensure existing practices meet standards: Companies active in priority sectors can expect an increased interest by the BCA. To avoid surprises, it is recommended to review your current practices, such as procurement processes and pricing strategies, to ensure compliance or to adjust policies where required. 
  • Train key personnel: To minimise infringement risk, it is advisable to provide regular training to your employees.
  • Establish clear internal reporting channels: Establishing clear internal reporting channels is beneficial as it reduces the probability of being caught off guard by an external investigation. Moreover, the EU Whistleblower Directive mandates this for certain companies.

If you need more information or further guidance in this area, please contact Baptist Vleeshouwers or Claire De Neve.



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