DLA Piper Intelligence

Telecommunications
Laws of the World

Overview of legal landscape

Belgium
Belgium

The Belgian Institute for Postal Services and Telecommunications (BIPT) is the regulator of the electronic communications market.

Subject to some exceptions (e.g. concerning the use of spectrum), communication providers are generally authorised to operate in Belgium and do not require a licence, permit, consent, etc. However, providers of public electronic communications networks or of publicly available communications services (operators) need to inform the BIPT of their activities, as well as of changes to their activities (including the transfer and/or termination thereof).

This concept of general authorisation is derived from the European Authorisation Directive which has been implemented in EU Member States. 

Last modified 2 Dec 2019
Overview
Belgium

The Belgian Institute for Postal Services and Telecommunications (BIPT) is the regulator of the electronic communications market.

Subject to some exceptions (e.g. concerning the use of spectrum), communication providers are generally authorised to operate in Belgium and do not require a licence, permit, consent, etc. However, providers of public electronic communications networks or of publicly available communications services (operators) need to inform the BIPT of their activities, as well as of changes to their activities (including the transfer and/or termination thereof).

This concept of general authorisation is derived from the European Authorisation Directive which has been implemented in EU Member States. 

Last modified 2 Dec 2019
Laws and regulations

The primary legislation governing telecommunications in Belgium is the Act of 13 June 2005 on electronic communications (the 'Telecommunications Act') which implements (amongst others, such as Directives 2006/24 and 2009/136) the following European Directives:

  • Directive 2002/19/EC on access to, and interconnection of, electronic communications networks and associated facilities
  • Directive 2002/20/EC on the authorisation of electronic communications networks and services
  • Directive 2002/21/EC on a common regulatory framework for electronic communications networks and services
  • Directive 2002/22/EC on universal service and user rights
  • Directive 2002/58 on privacy and electronic communications
  • Directive 2002/77/EC on competition in the markets for electronic communications networks and services

Several other laws may also be relevant with respect to the provision of communication services and the operation of communication networks:

  • The Regulation (EU) 2016/679 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 27 April 2016 on the protection of natural persons with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data, and repealing Directive 95/46/EC (General Data Protection Regulation).                                                                    
  • The Code of Criminal Procedure, which governs the interception of communications.                                             
  • In December 2018, the Directive (EU) 2018/1972 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 December 2018 establishing the European Electronic Communications Code (Recast) entered into force, and will have to be transposed into national law by 21 December 2020.
Last modified 2 Dec 2019
Regulatory bodies

The BIPT is a federal institution which performs several tasks. As the regulator of the electronic communications market it, inter alia, has the task of promoting competition, contributing to the development of the internal market and protecting the users' interests.

Belgian Institute for Postal Services and Telecommunications:

Address:  Ellipse Building, Bd. Du Roi Albert II, 35, 1030 Brussels

Telephone: 02 226 88 88

Website: http://www.bipt.be/ 

Last modified 2 Dec 2019
Regulated activities

The Electronic Communications Act regulates both the activities of electronic communications networks and providers of electronic communication services.  A further subdivision is made between public and private providers.

Last modified 2 Dec 2019
Registration / licensing

No licence, permit, consent, etc. is required for communication providers to operate in Belgium, therefore communication operators have a general authorisation to operate in Belgium as required by the European Authorisation Directive.  However, the Act on electronic communication sets forth an obligation for operators to notify the BIPT before starting to operate in Belgium.

Last modified 2 Dec 2019
Establishment

From a telecoms regulatory perspective, a telecommunications provider is not required to be domiciled in Belgium prior to or during the provision of services. Generally, only the notification to the BIPT should be complied with, which can also be done by an operator established abroad.

Last modified 2 Dec 2019
Interconnection/roaming

The Telecommunications Act requires all providers of public electronic communications networks to negotiate in good faith, interconnection with other operators with a view to providing electronic communications services to the public.

Interconnection agreements have to be submitted to the BIPT. 

Last modified 2 Dec 2019
Consumer protection

With regard to the provision of services (e.g. rules on information obligations) the Telecommunications Act does not make a clear distinction between business-to-business and business-to-consumer relations.

Most of these rules apply to 'subscribers' i.e. individuals and legal persons who use electronic communications services after having concluded a contract with an operator. Sometimes a specific provision is included in order to protect consumers (e.g. relating to the maximum initial duration of the contract).

Some specific consumer/end-user information obligations are imposed on operators concerning the access to their network and services, the use thereof, prices and potential costs in case of contract termination. A standard information file also need to be made for the consumers/end-users and should be sent to the BIPT. Consumers also have the right to change their subscription formula with their current operator at least once a year without any charge.

In addition to specific telecom rules, provisions of general consumer law also apply, such as rules concerning unfair terms or the rules concerning the tacit extension of services contracts.

Last modified 2 Dec 2019
Taxes and fees

Operators have to pay a registration fee and annual administrative fees. Amounts can be found here. 

Last modified 2 Dec 2019
Enforcement

In case of a breach of the Telecommunications Act, criminal fines of up to EUR 400,000 can be imposed.  

Administrative fines of up to 5% of the turnover for the telecommunication activities of the last accounting year, with a maximum of EUR 1,000,000.

Higher fines are possible in some specific cases involving fraudulent intention, for example.

Last modified 2 Dec 2019
Contacts
Patrick Van Eecke
Patrick Van Eecke
Partner
T +32 (0) 2 500 16 30
Antoon Dierick
Antoon Dierick
Senior Associate
T +32 (0) 2 500 16 43
Last modified 2 Dec 2019