On 1 September 2017 the Council of Ministers approved a preliminary draft act which extends the Belgian class action to include self-employed individuals and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
Since the entry into force of the act of 28 March 2014, consumers can act collectively and claim compensation for damage they have suffered as a consequence of the same loss. At this moment in time, the collective claim or Belgian class action is strictly limited to the field of consumer law. A group representative can bring an action against an undertaking to obtain compensation for damage suffered by all consumers who have joined the group as a result of the undertaking breaching its contractual obligations or a legal provision mentioned in the act.
The Council of Ministers wants to extend the scope of the Belgian class action to include self-employed individuals and SMEs. The envisaged amendment to the act would also allow self-employed individuals and SMEs to collectively turn to the judge in order to claim compensation for damage suffered as a result of the same damaging event and caused by an undertaking. The Belgian class action would thus be extended to include all self-employed individuals, and SMEs with fewer than 250 employees and an annual turnover of less than EUR 50 million or a balance sheet total below EUR 3 million. A group representative would be appointed to initiate the proceedings on behalf of these self-employed persons and SMEs as well. For the time being, the material scope of the act would not be affected. Thus, the claim would still serve to obtain compensation for the damage caused due to a contractual fault or the breach of one of the provisions Is mentioned in the act.
We are closely monitoring developments regarding the amendment of this act. Meanwhile, if you would like more information about this topic, we would refer you to the book "De Belgische class action", written by Emilie De Baere, senior attorney at Eubelius, and published by Kluwer in June 2017.