INTERNATIONAL: 2006 BELGIAN COMPETITION REFORM - MERGER CONTROL - ADMINISTRATIVE RESOURCES - COMPETITION COUNCIL - PUNITIVE POWERS - SECTOR SPECIFIC REGULATORS

Belgium: Two years of competition reform - An interim report

A little more than to years following its inception, this article seeks to assess whether the new Belgian competition law of 2006 has delivered its purported ambitions. We come to the conclusion that, on three core aspects, the reform has not (yet?) reached its ambitious goals. First, whilst the elevation of the merger control thresholds has certainly freed-up significant administrative resources, most of these resources were subsequently reallocated to the examination of prescribed cases. Second, whilst the Competition Council enjoys unprecedented punitive powers under the new law, it has so far failed to implement them and, on the contrary, exhibits a noticeable reluctance to inflict fines for anticompetitive practices. Third, a number of decisions demonstrate that the new legislation has not eradicated conflicts between the Competition Council and sector specific regulators.

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1. Souvenez-vous, c'était en octobre 2006. Pour répondre aux brocards des institutions nationales et internationales , le législateur belge décidait de s'attaquer une fois pour toutes aux défaillances structurelles du dispositif de protection de la concurrence, par l'adoption d'une nouvelle loi sur la protection de la concurrence économique (“LPCE”). Les limites de l'ancien dispositif législatif étaient, il est vrai, criantes. À s'en tenir au seul domaine de la lutte contre les pratiques restrictives, le Conseil belge de la concurrence (“le Conseil”) n'avait rendu, entre 1993 et 2005, que 58 décisions, dont une seule décision de constatation d'infraction et de sanction. 2. La loi de 2006 portait donc l'ambition de hisser la Belgique au rang des bons élèves de l'Union européenne en matière de droit

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Alexandre Defossez, Nicolas Petit, Belgium: Two years of competition reform - An interim report, May 2009, Concurrences Review N° 2-2009, Art. N° 25826, pp. 222-229

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