In March 2016, the BCA published its third note on enforcement priorities. As in previous years (see Belgian Competition Law Newsletter 2014 1/3), the note expands on both the BCA’s methodology for selecting cases, and sets out the strategic and sector priorities for the upcoming year.
The BCA’s methodology for selection and prioritisation of cases involves four criteria: impact, strategic importance, risks and resources. In assessing the impact of cases, the BCA will consider not only the direct harm caused by the alleged infringement in the relevant sector in terms of prices, product quality and service to consumers, but will also take into account indirect effects such as the dissuasive factor of the enforcement in connected sectors. A case will be considered to have strategic importance when it involves a priority sector, or where the case would enable the BCA to clarify the interpretation of the Competition Act.
The BCA has indicated that in 2016 it will prioritise enforcement in the following sectors:
- liberalised sectors and network industries, in particular postal services and telecoms (market access for operators wanting to offer triple and quadruple play services);
- retail distribution and the relationship with suppliers (in particular in the agro-food industry);
- the media sector and digital economy (access to content);
- the provision of services to companies (and private persons), in particular the activities of trade associations and the legal form available to undertakings; and public procurement.
The BCA also states that it will attempt to maintain a good balance between the enforcement of hardcore infringements and more complex or innovative cases. Finally, the BCA concludes that, given its current lack of staff, it will focus on cartel infringements in particular – as these have a direct effect on price increases, reduce innovation, and disincentivise consumers from comparing prices.