Institutional Aspects of Telecommunications Law in Belgium or the Automobile with Thirteen Steering Wheels
75 Pages Posted: 1 Jul 2010
Date Written: June 29, 2010
This article aims to present the institutional aspects that are specific to the regulation of the telecommunications sector in Belgium. There are many of these specific institutions and they cover a great deal of a rule’s life cycle: its creation, its implementation by the executive power and its litigation. The precise partition of the different institutions’ roles is seldom obvious. We hope however that showing the muddle contributes to clarifying the situation.
As a start, we need to examine what does the concept telecommunications mean in Belgium and note that the constitutional division of competences in Federal Belgium is not up to date with the sector’s evolution. This situation has institutional consequences that cannot be ignored (Section 2). After a short glance at the ministry in charge of telecommunications legislation (Section 3), we detail the sector’s watchdog, the BIPT, as well as the ways in which its activities are controlled (Section 4).
The watchdog and its controls take up the bulk of the institutional landscape, but it is not the end of the horizon yet. We also address various other institutions. Their roles are more modest but sometimes very real: the Competition council (Section 5), the Consultative committee (Section 6), the Mediation service (Section 7) and the Ethics’ commission (Section 8).
We conclude that convergence makes the Belgian intermingling of competences in the area of electronic communications literally overtaken by facts. The cooperation set up is neither complete, nor, according to us, deep enough for a coherent approach of the whole market.
The BIPT can ever less be ignored. It has much power but under supervised independence. The Court of appeals of Brussels is without doubt the most remarkable control body of the BIPT. Besides, the Court of appeals of Brussels also deals with appeals against decisions of the Competition council and decisions of Brussels’ Tribunal of commerce. As a consequence, this court’s role is key. However, BIPT’s power to conciliate and to take provisional measures in mind, that makes a lot of potential interveners for one and only dispute, even without mentioning the Council of ministers. Moreover, the Council of State is competent for the control of decisions concerning electronic communications (broadcasting) of three Community regulators. This so specific area is thus still characterised by a dispersion of fori.
In other words, we count thirteen steering wheels so far. As with Tintin’s Soviet car, the machine would probably work also – or even better – with a few elements, here steering wheels, less. In any case, the lines would be clearer.
Note: Downloadable document is in French.
Keywords: telecommunications law, Belgium, institutional, convergence, regulator, control, court of appeal of Brussels
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation