26 March 2018

In a judgment dated 15 March, the Constitutional Court confirmed that data about private use of water and energy (electricity and gas) can be used proactively in the fight against social domicile fraud.

Domicile fraud is committed when a person does not declare his/her real domicile or family data in an attempt to obtain more social security benefits than he/she is entitled to. This is because the amount of some social security benefits depends on the domicile and family situation of the recipient.

In 2016, the Government stepped up its fight against domicile fraud. 
 
An Act of 13 May 2016 requires water and energy suppliers to pass on their customers' consumption and address data to the Crossroads Bank for Social Security at least once a year if their consumption deviates from the average. The Act also enables social security institutions and social inspectors to use modern techniques such as data mining, data matching and profiling on any deviating consumption data relating to people who receive benefits. They can then screen the data and merge them with other data to trigger fraud flags in a targeted way. 
 
The non-profit association "Ligue des Droits de l'Homme" asked the Constitutional Court to annul the Act for an alleged breach of the right to the protection of private life.

In the court proceedings, Eubelius attorneys Véronique Pertry, Sophie Vantomme and Anneleen Van de Meulebroucke defended the Act on behalf of the Council of Ministers.

The Constitutional Court held that the Act of 13 May 2016 does not violate the right to the protection of private life, inter alia because the Act adequately and proportionately pursues a legitimate purpose – the effective and efficient detection, discouragement and tackling of domicile fraud – and offers sufficient privacy safeguards. The Court attached importance, for example, to the fact that the processing activities and data transfers are limited to what is necessary and that the data are only used as a corroborative element, and thus cannot automatically establish fraud. 
 
The Constitutional Court therefore rejected the request for annulment of the Act of 13 May 2016, which can thus maintain its contribution to the intensified fight against social fraud. 

Click here for media coverage.

Click here for the judgment of the Constitutional Court.