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On 20 July 2016, the BCA adopted competition law guidelines for small and medium-sized enterprises (“SMEs”). In the introduction of the guidelines, reference is made to the fact that Belgium has an open economy, which is largely driven by SMEs and that only free and sustainable competition can give consumers and undertakings the chances they are entitled to. Free competition is therefore of utmost importance for SMEs, but also requires that SMEs are perfectly aware of the rules that apply, and how they can improve a compliance culture within the organisation, which is the aim of the guidelines.

The guidelines first set out in a brief manner the applicable rules in the area of restrictive practices, and the sanctions that can be imposed for infringements. They then explain how SMEs can implement a tailored compliance programme, with practical guidance in the area of risk assessment, codes of conduct, the appointment of compliance officers and training. Finally, the importance of management support for a compliance culture is stressed. At the same time, the BCA restates its position that the existence of a compliance programme does not constitute an attenuating circumstance for the fine calculation in case an infringement is established.

Author

Author

Kurt Haegeman is a member of the steering committee of the Firm's Global Consumer Goods and Retail Industry Group, Global Cartel Task Force and European Competition Law Practice Group. He has published articles and spoken at conferences on a variety of EU competition law-related subjects, including leniency strategy, cartels and dawn raid defence, vertical restraints, e-commerce and competition compliance.

Author

Vincent Mussche is a senior associate in Baker & McKenzie’s European & Competition Law Practice in Brussels. He started his career in 2004 as a trainee at the European Commission and the Belgian Competition Authority. He worked for six years in an international law firm, and from 2011 was group competition counsel at a major multinational. He joined the Firm in 2014. Mr. Mussche has authored numerous articles on European and Belgian competition law developments and is the assistant editor of Tijdschrift voor Belgische Mededinging/Revue de la Concurrence Belge (TBM/RCB).