What administrative formalities or procedures should you follow if you want to sell alcohol, tobacco, cosmetics, diamonds or dual-use goods or weapons? Here is an overview...
Merchants (retailers and wholesalers) need an authorisation issued by the Customs and Excise department of FPS Finance to sell alcoholic beverages. It is called the authorisation alcool éthylique et boissons alcoolisées (ethyl alcohol and alcoholic beverages authorisation). The Customs and Excise department checks at that time that all alcohol taxes have be paid.
Hospitality establishments have to obtain two authorisations from their municipality: the débit de boissons (beverage outlet) for beer and wine and a patente (licence) to sell spirits.
See our article on the subject on this website.
This covers many products including cigarettes, cigars, cigarillos, rolling tobacco, etc.
Information about labelling, composition and sales is available on the FPS Health website.
Note that sales require an authorisation from the FPS Finance Customs and Excises department, without which you run the risk of being reported and fined.
“All buyers, as meant by Article 1bis of the law, must be in possession of an Acheteur tabacs manufacturés (manufactured tobacco buyer) authorisation. All economic operators, as meant by Article 1bis of the law, in possession of manufactured tobacco products already provided for consumption must have an opérateur économique tabacs manufacturés (manufactured tobacco products economic operator) authorisation. § 2. The manufactured tobacco buyer and opérateur économique tabacs manufacturés authorisation requests must be submitted to the general administrator under the conditions they set (Central Excise Unit Team).
- Administration générale des Douane et Accises
Administration Opérations - Composante centrale – Equipe accises
Boulevard du Roi Albert II 33, Box 372
Tobacco-based products must comply with strict advertising rules.
Electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes)
They do not contain any tobacco, but since they contain nicotine, information must be provided to FPS Public Health six months after sales begin. You can find a brochure on the manufacturing and sale (FR) of these products here.
Most cleaning products are detergents and their sale is regulated.
The issue is regulated at the European level by Regulation 648/2004, which is explained in detail on the FPS Health website.
If you are a manufacturer, importer or distributor, you can find extensive information in the 1819 article on the launch of cosmetics and on the FPS Economy website.
People who want to do business in the diamond sector must comply with certain administrative formalities and procedures. Contact the FPS Economy's Direction Générale des Analyses économiques et de l'Economie internationale (Service des Licences – Diamant) (Directorate-General for Economic Analysis and International Economy (Licensing Department - Diamonds) in Antwerp and go to the link provided to obtain information about the steps to take.
Precious metal and silver plate jewellery
FPS Economy has published an informative brochure entitled Guidelines à l’attention des bijoutiers (Guidelines for jewellers) (April 2021) with helpful information about the policy on posting prices, hallmarks, posting legal notices, registration with the Guarantee Register, etc.
There is a duty of due diligence with respect to the management of purchases and sales of metals including gold, pewter, tantalum, and tungsten to ensure their provenance, mining conditions and to limit conflicts related to the illegal mining of these metals. More information is available on the FPS Economy website.
Cannabis and CBD (or Cannabidiol, a Cannabis chemical).
The growing, sale and consumption of Cannabis is forbidden in Belgium. Hemp, a variety of Cannabis with a low THC content is permitted with authorisation and if it is grown in earth.
CBD is currently in legal limbo. It is not explicitly forbidden. Infor Drogues states that “the various products (leaf, oil, paste, liquid for electronic cigarettes, etc.) containing CBD are authorised as long as their THC content is under 0.2%. This limit is applicable in most European countries. “In addition to the obligations applicable to all self-employed persons, sellers must have a certificate for each product proving that the level of THC is not above the authorised limit.
FPS Health provides a FAQ on the topic. For all questions, we recommend that you contact FPS Health (email@example.com) or the AFSCA (S3.firstname.lastname@example.org).
Trade in live animals for food
The AFSCA regulates live animals intended for consumption to ensure that hygiene rules are complied with. The rules depend on the species. The information on the AFSCA website is currently incomplete. Please contact them directly, describing your situation to find out about your exact obligations.
Transport is also regulated.
This issue has been moved to the regional level based on a common law. In Brussels the rules in place depend on the business (breeding, boarding, shop, etc.), and can be found on the Bruxelles Environnement website.
Animal sales are defined broadly: “Selling animals means putting them on the market, putting them up for sale, keeping, acquiring, transporting, exhibiting for the purpose of selling, exchanging, selling or transferring free of charge or for a fee.” An approval is often required.
For the other regions, see the links on the FPS Health and Environment website.
You must comply with the AFSCA’s requirements if you want to sell these types of products.
Other products subject to authorisation
Arms and dual-use goods
In Brussels, International.brussels’ Licences Armes et Biens à double usage (Arms and Dual Use Goods) unit decides whether or not to grant a licence for the import, export, transit and transfer of arms, defence related goods and dual use goods.
Arms, defence related goods and dual use goods are defined by law at the Brussels, national (Belgium) and European levels. “Arms” include firearms as well as goods that are used specifically for military and public order purposes. Dual use goods include all goods and technologies intended for both civilian and military uses.
The type of licence required depends on several criteria. The Licences unit provides a tool on its website to determine in which instances a licence is required, and which one. You can also consult the applicable regulations.
There are categories of specific codes depending on the weapons. It can be helpful to check the categories: they provide information about which goods require a licence.
To request a licence, download the request form from the Licences unit website. If you have any questions, you can contact the Licences unit directly.
In addition, firearms must be tested and inspected for safety reasons. Information is available on the FPS Economy website and the issue is regulated by the Law of 8 July 2018 on the provisions governing firearms proofing: “It is forbidden to keep to shoot, use for shooting, sell, market or keep in warehouses, magazines, storage areas, or workshops any firearms, firearm parts or cartridges that do not meet the conditions of this law or of its execution orders” (Article 13).
In addition to these examples, many products must comply with general safety standards and are also subject, by category (gas devices, lighters, electrical appliances, construction products, pyrotechnics, tanning equipment, etc.), to specific regulations described in detail on the FPS Economy website.