With the Act of 28 March 2014 regarding collective redress, the Belgian legislature introduced the concept of class actions into Belgian law. Before the 2014 Act, class actions were not possible in Belgium. Filing a lawsuit for multiple claimants was possible if their claims were closely connected, but all the names and addresses of all the individual claimants had to be mentioned in all court documents (writ of summons, submissions, judgment, convocations, etc.). The practical challenges of these requirements made it almost impossible to file a lawsuit for thousands of claimants.
Since the Act of 28 March 2014, it is possible to file a class action in Belgium, which has been formally named an “action for collective redress.”
Only a group of consumers or small and medium size enterprises (SME) may initiate an action for collective redress when they suffer damage as a result of a common cause. The group of claimants must choose whether they think the action should have an opt-in or opt-out system and after hearing argument, the Court will make the final decision on this.. During the parliamentary debate, the legislators stated that an opt-out system is to be preferred where there are a large number of claimants who suffer minimal financial damage. An opt-in system is to be preferred where it is impossible to estimate the number of potential claimants or where the kind of damage requires the active participation of the claimant, such as in case of a violation of privacy.
The court will always impose an opt-in system for the group members who do not have their main place of residence in Belgium, as well as in situations where the claim regards compensation of physical or moral collective damage.