The 2006 Competition Act has been amended by the Law of 6 May 2009. The main changes are as follows.
First, a number of changes in relation to the staffing of the Belgian Competition Authority were introduced: (i) the President of the Competition Council will be appointed for 6 years instead of the previous 3 year term; (ii) Competition Prosecutors that have been seconded (for example to a ministerial cabinet) can be replaced on a permanent basis; and (iii) members of communal or provincial councils can now also serve as members of the Council.
Second, it will be easier for the Minister to request the initiation of an investigation. Under the 2006 Competition Act, there was a need for “strong indications” of anti-competitive behaviour for the Minister to be able to make such request. This requirement has now been abolished and as a result the Minister can now request an investigation without there being a need to establish “strong indications” of anti-competitive behaviour..
Furthermore, the College of Competition Prosecutors can now drop a case, initiated after a complaint or a request by the Minister, in light of the priorities policy and the means available. This is a welcome change as the absence of this possibility under the 2006 Competition Act resulted in the mandatory opening of a new case unless complaints were inadmissible or manifestly unfounded.
Finally, the amended Act clarifies that in case of a continuing competition law infringement, the five-year statute of limitation period that applies to the investigation of facts only starts from the day that the infringement has ceased.