The Act of 28 March 2014 introducing the possibility to file a class action (action en reparation collective/ rechtsvordering tot collectief herstel) before the Brussels Courts enters into force this 1 September 2014. As from today a class action can be brought for collective damage with a common cause, however only if such common cause arose after the entry into force of the act. In other words, the new proceedings cannot be used to seek compensation in the mass damage cases reported in the Belgian press in the last few years (and which actually caused such new legislation to be adopted).
Belgian law now allows groups of consumers harmed by a common cause to obtain damages from companies, through the intervention of a group representative (représentant du groupe/groepsvertegenwoordiger). Only certain consumer organisations can act as group representatives.
The new act aims to offer consumers a simplified and cheaper way to obtain compensation for mass damage. A consumer is any natural person who is acting for purposes unrelated to his or her trade, business, craft or profession. In other words, only consumer-to-business (C2B) class actions are possible, not business-to-business (B2B) or consumers/businesses actions against public authorities.
The scope of this new legislation is limited in respect of the legal basis of the action: consumers can only ask damages for the violation of a contract or the violation of consumer related legislation listed in the Act. It covers fields such as consumer safety, competition, pharmaceuticals, insurance, transport, financial services and products, market practices and consumer protection, energy, intellectual property, data protection, etc.