Obligation to provide recipients with assistance
The aim of the services directive (FR) is to consolidate the liberalisation of the services market and to reinforce the administrative simplification process. The directive removes obstacles to the creation of a company by a service provider or its activities, as well as access for a recipient of services (consumer or company) to services from another member state. The directive also aims to improve the quality of the services and rights of recipients. This latter objective is continued by article 21 of the directive, which imposes an obligation to provide recipients with assistance.
At present, many recipients are reluctant to use services from abroad due to a lack of knowledge about the rules with which providers from other member states must comply. Recipients have difficulties comparing offers and then choosing providers based on relevant information. The assistance required under article 21 aims to improve the confidence of recipients by giving them the means to make a clear choice, by making comparisons when they are considering making cross-border transactions.
Obligations of article 21
In Belgium, article 21 requires companies and consumers residing in Belgium to be provided with:
- general legal information on the applicable requirements in other member states (legal methods concerning the creation and exercise of service activities and legislation on consumer protection);
- information on remedies available in other member states;
- the contact details for associations or organisations in other member states from which providers or recipients can obtain practical assistance.
What does article 21 not make mandatory?
Article 21 does not require the Belgian authorities:
- to provide all information that may be required beforehand;
- to provide detailed information in specific cases,
- to develop a website,
- to answer questions posed by consumers or foreign companies. These questions may be posed by the intermediary to the organisation responsible for assisting recipients in another member state.
Specific application of article 21
Consumers can send their general legal questions regarding the application of the service directive in another member state to: Consumer21services@economie.fgov.be
Companies can send their general legal questions regarding the application of the service directive in another member state to: Business21services@economie.fgov.be