On March 1st, 2016, the Belgian Competition Authority (“BCA”) adopted new leniency guidelines.

An undertaking that is a participant in a (secret) cartel (e.g. price agreements amongst competitors, restriction of production, allocation of markets), risks a fine of up to 10% of its turnover (Article IV.70, §1 Code of Economic Law).

However, a leniency system allows participants in a cartel to obtain a full or partial immunity from fines, if they bring such a competition law related infringement to the attention of the BCA or produce evidence which provides substantial added value to the investigation.

The most important innovations of these guidelines, in comparison with the old guidelines which dated from 2007, can be summarized as follows:

  1. In 2013, the Belgian competition act established the grounds for prosecution of an individual for participating in a cartel for his employer, if that undertaking (or association of undertakings) is prosecuted and convicted for the same facts (article IV.70 §2 Code of Economic Law). The BCA  can impose a fine on an individual of up to 10.000 euros. The new guidelines provide for practical guidance for individuals on how to obtain immunity from such fines. The new guidelines also regulate the relationship between immunity requests submitted by individuals and leniency applications submitted by undertakings. An individual may submit the request together with an undertaking or on its own initiative, irrespective of whether the undertaking in question submits a leniency application. An individual may qualify for immunity regardless of the status of his application for immunity. For undertakings different rules apply: only the first undertaking to submit a leniency application can benefit from full immunity.
  2. The changes made to the European Model Leniency Program (“EMPL”) of 2012 have been incorporated into the new leniency guidelines. The leniency programs of national competition authorities of the EU member states have been streamlined. The guidelines bring about an administrative simplification to requests for exemption and this should result in a more decisive action against cartels.
  3. Finally, procedural modalities of leniency applications are addressed in the new leniency guidelines. In particular, the obligations that apply to undertakings requesting a full or partial immunity from fines are covered more extensively. In addition, the rules on confidentiality of leniency applications and requests for immunity are expanded and clarified.


The new guidelines are available on the website of the BCA via this link

These guidelines have been published in the Belgian Official Gazette of 22 March 2016 and entered into force that same day.

Should you require further information on leniency applications and/or requests for immunity from prosecution with the competition authorities, please contact Isabelle Buelens.

Published in: Legal insights