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Belgium – all brick-and-mortar businesses will have to offer at least one means of electronic payment to consumers

As of 1st of July 2022, any customer-facing business undertaking carrying out a business activity in Belgium will be required to offer at least one means of electronic payment so that cashless customers can still pay for the goods or services. The rationale behind this new requirement is primarily fighting tax fraud, but also promoting the widespread use of electronic payments solutions.

New requirement

A draft law dated 3 February 2022 will introduce this new obligation into the Code of Economic Law (CEL). Notably, there will be a new Chapter 2/1 (entitled “Payment to consumer”) inserted in Title 2 of Book VI, which will keep existing requirements in terms of rounding cash payments (i.e. Articles VI.7/1 – VI.7/3; we briefly discuss these below) and add the new one under Article VI.7/4.

New Article VI.7/4 CEL will read: “Without prejudice to Article VII.30, §3 [i.e. legal provision that prohibits surcharging in Belgium], when a payment in euro is made with the simultaneous physical presence of the consumer and the undertaking, the undertaking shall make available to the consumer a means of electronic payment”.

The article further specifies what constitutes a “means of electronic payment”, that is, any means “other than coins and banknotes denominated in euro, provided by a payment service provider…”.

We address below some of the key features of this new obligation.

Undertakings subject to the obligation

The legal obligation applies to anyone falling under the general definition of “undertaking” set out in Article I.8, 39° CEL that reads “any natural person or legal entity carrying on an economic goal in the long run, including its associations”.

The definition is broad, and may include a great variety of businesses, e.g. retailers, lawyers, dentists, or any association or (public) administration carrying on an economic activity. For example, a municipality will have to accept a means of electronic payment in relation to its economic activities (e.g. the management of a swimming pool or a public library, or when renting premises to consumers).

Business to Consumer (B2C) only

Undertakings are required to offer a means of electronic payment to consumers only, and this does not apply to situations where an undertaking would have to deal with other businesses only (Business to business, or B2B).

Means of electronic payment

As mentioned above, the definition is also very broad (i.e. anything other than coins and banknotes) and also technologically neutral (so as to keep up with technology and market developments in the fields of payments). The definition leaves open the possibility for undertakings to choose the electronic payment solution that would be the most suitable and appropriate for their business (in terms of costs, type of customers, volume of payments, etc.). Therefore, the new obligation does not mean all undertakings in Belgium will have to buy or rent a payment terminal in order to accept card-based payments (e.g. Bancontact and/or Maestro and/or Mastercard and/or Visa). Other options include for example accepting a credit transfer from the payers (perhaps from their mobile bank app, or smartphone, while they are in the shop) or scanning a QR code in order to pay via Payconiq (and (undoubtedly other solutions will be available in a near future).

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Read more here.

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