Contrary to most common law and an increasing number of civil law countries, Belgian law does not currently provide for any possibility of introducing class actions.
This situation will change if a new new draft law recently announced by the Government is adopted.
Under the new draft law it will become possible for mass claims to be introduced before the courts on behalf of a group of consumers and the current requirment to individually identify each plaintiff will no longer apply.
However, under the new draft, class actions may only be introduced by recognized consumer protection associations. This means that neither lawyers offices nor bodies specialized in representing minority shareholders will have standing to introduce class actions on behalf of their clients.
A further important restriction is that individual consumers wishing to benefit from the action will be required to each specifically « opt in » to the action and will not be automatically covered by the action simply because they are part of the class that has suffered injury.
Futher restrictions include a requirement to obtian the prior authorization of a judge before introducing the action as well as the imposition of an obligatory conciliation phase.
Last but not least, the new procedure will only apply to damage incurred after the entry in force of the new law.
Full details of the draft are not yet available and it seems likely that the proposal will further evolve prior to being submitted to Parliament.