After the summer recess, I will propose draft legislation to turn the Belgian Privacy Commission into a real regulator, competent to impose administrative fines“, announced Bart Tommelein, the Belgian Minister competent for privacy. Under current Belgian legislation, the Privacy Commission does not have the possibility to impose fines upon companies infringing data protection laws and must refer them to the courts in case the Commission wishes them to be sanctioned.

The purpose of this change in law is to prepare Belgium for future European legislation. The European General Data Protection Regulation, which is currently still under discussion, provides for substantially extended sanctioning mechanisms which will likely require a change in law in most European countries, including Belgium.

The Minister also reportedly stated that he wishes to fortify the position of the Privacy Commission and indicate that Belgium, of whom the recently installed new government devoted several paragraphs to the protection of privacy in the coalition agreement, wants to play a leading role in safeguarding privacy rights.

Although the level of the possible fines still has to be decided and approved, it has been suggested that the Minister would like to follow the example of recent Dutch legislation, allowing to impose fines of up to 810.000 EUR.

It is clear that Belgium is becoming one of the more assertive countries when it comes to privacy and data protection. After having appointed a Privacy Minister (which is unique in the world) in 2014, the Belgian Privacy Commission recently also issued a recommendation (http://www.privacycommission.be/sites/privacycommission/files/documents/aanbeveling_04_2015.pdf) in relation to Facebook’s new terms of service and data policy and announced to take further legal action in case Facebook would not comply.