The Belgian Competition Authority (Raad voor de Mededinging) ("BCA") has adopted new guidelines explaining its method for calculating fines for infringements of Belgian and EU competition law. The guidelines build on the BCA's practices in this regard since the entry into force of the current Belgian Competition Act in 2006. When drafting the guidelines, the BCA also took into consideration the developments at EU level, in particular the European Commission's fining policy.
Belgian law imposes a maximum level for fines, i.e. 10% of an undertaking's turnover. Below that limit, however, the BCA has a margin of discretion. The guidelines set out the general principles which the authority must apply when implementing its fining policy and calculating fines in specific individual cases. The basic amount of a fine is determined by the turnover relating to the infringement. That basic amount is then adjusted in accordance with the infringement's gravity and duration. In addition to these general factors, the specific individual circumstances may be taken into account in every case. These circumstances can be mitigating or aggravating in nature (e.g. was the undertaking's role in the cartel clearly passive? is the undertaking a repeat offender?).
Notably, the guidelines authorise the BCA to take into account initiatives taken by undertakings to avoid anticompetitive behaviour or to eliminate or limit its anticompetitive effects. This significantly increases the importance of competition law compliance trainings