Unfair contract terms

Although previously limited to business-to-consumer relations (“BtoC” or “B2C”), the prohibition of abusive terms, meaning “terms that create a clear imbalance between the rights and obligations of the parties” now also applies to business-to-business-relations (“BtoB” or “B2B”). In addition to the general prohibition of unfair terms, the legislator has taken initiative to introduce two categories of unfair terms, all of which are sanctioned by nullity, in particular:

  • A “black” list of four clauses prohibited under all circumstances;
  • A “grey” list of eight clauses “presumed to be unfair”, that create a clear imbalance between the rights and obligations of the parties and are therefore prohibited. Parties can rebut the presumption that a given clause is unfair by proving that, under the circumstances and characteristics of the contract, the clause is not unfair.
Patrick Geeraert

Partner | KPMG Law



As in B2C-relations, the penalty will be the nullity of the clause deemed unfair, unless in case the contract cannot be continued without the relevant clause, in which case the contract as a whole would be void. The provisions on unfair clauses will enter into force on December 1st 2020, but only for contracts concluded, renewed or amended after that date of entry into force.

Unfair market practices

Article VI.104 of the Code of Economic Law already prohibits “any act contrary to fair market practices”. From now on, as in B2C relations, the following practices will be added:

  • The prohibition of misleading market practices (Article VI.105 to VI.109 Code of Economic Law)
  • The prohibition of aggressive market practices (Article VI.109/1 to VI.109/3 Code of Economic Law)

These practices can occur at any time during a contract: in negotiations, during the performance of the contract and at the end of the contract. In this case, legal action to stop such practices is likely to remain the most obvious enforcement instrument. In addition, Book XV of the Code of Economic Law provides criminal sanctions in case of violation of the new provisions concerning misleading and aggressive market practices. The provisions relating to misleading and aggressive unfair market practices has entered into force on  September 1st, 2019.

Abuse of economic dependence

From now on, companies will be prohibited from abusing a position of economic dependence on another company, with an impact on the competition on the Belgian market or a substantial part thereof. The new law contains several examples of what can be deemed as abuse (for instance the refusal of a sale, purchase or other transaction conditions). An abuse of a position of economic dependence can be sanctioned by the Belgian Competition Authority with fines up to 2 % of the turnover of the company concerned. In addition, an abuse of a position of economic dependence may also give rise to claims under private law (e.g. damages, termination or annulment of all or part of a contract, etc.) The provisions relating to the abuse of economic dependence will enter into force on July 1st, 2020.