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Currently, the two most popular digital areas in which you can open a business in Belgium include the sharing economy & mobile commerce (or m-commerce). The sharing economy is based on such platforms as Airbnb, Uber & Deliveroo. M-commerce refers to commercial transactions that are agreed on or executed by using mobile communication technologies (e.g. mobile phones & tablets). M-commerce makes it possible for transactions to be concluded anywhere & anytime.

Legal Regulation

Those seeking to obtain an ICO license in Belgium should keep in mind that the Belgian government is currently considering adopting separate provisions governing digital currencies & ICOs. It is also planning to adopt regulation in the field of digital marketing through social networks.

In general, digital business in Belgium is regulated by the Economic Code of Belgium.

The Federal Economics Service is charged with control & supervision over compliance with the Economic Code. Another supervisory authority, called the Data Protection Authority, is entrusted with ensuring the correct processing & protection of personal data.

There are no special requirements for starting a digital business in Belgium. Basically, digital companies are subject to the same requirements as traditional ones. However, to ensure transparency & consumer protection, the Economic Code of Belgium requires online companies to provide basic information about themselves on their official websites.

Electronic Contracts & Signatures

In accordance with the Belgian Civil Code, electronic contracts in Belgium are considered legally valid. But it should be noted that the Economic Code provides for some restrictions on transactions that can be concluded by using electronic contracts. Such transactions include, for example, contracts establishing or transferring ownership of real estate; contracts for personal or property securities or guarantees; and contracts relating to family & inheritance law.

Electronic signatures in Belgium are governed by the eIDAS provisions & the Law on eIDAS & Electronic Archiving. However, according to eIDAS, only a qualified electronic signature has the same legal force as a handwritten signature.

Virtual Currencies & Payment Systems in Belgium

Those interested in registering a cryptoasset company in Belgium should keep in mind that the country has no specific rules or restrictions in relation to digital currencies. However, the Belgian government has plans to introduce separate legislation on the regulation of cryptocurrencies in Belgium.

As regards payment service providers, their operation is regulated by the provisions on payment systems contained in the Economic Code of Belgium, and the basic provisions of the EU’s Payment Services Act.

Data Protection

A great deal of attention is paid to the protection of personal information in Belgium. Companies and organizations associated with the processing of personal data must comply with the principles set forth in the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The GDPR provides a common basis for the processing of personal data. According to the provisions of the GDPR, personal data can be freely transferred across borders within the European Economic Area. The transfer of personal data to countries or international organizations outside the European Economic Area is, in principle, prohibited, if such a state or organization has not taken measures to protect relevant information.

It should also be added that in case of emergency (e.g. criminal offenses), the Belgian authorities may require access to personal data. The Law on Electronic Communications requires electronic communications operators to cooperate, in particular, with criminal prosecution agencies, intelligence services & security services.

Advertising & Marketing

All advertising (digital or otherwise) in Belgium is subject to certain principles. The Economic Code of Belgium provides additional rules for targeted advertising, such as restrictions on  contracts that cannot be entered into online. Targeted advertising in Belgium is also indirectly governed by the cookie clauses used for targeted advertising.

Also, the Economic Code of Belgium prohibits the use of e-mail for advertising without the prior and informed consent of the addressee of the message.

Domain Names

Registering a digital business in Belgium requires registering a domain name. The Economic Code of Belgium contains specific rules regarding domain names. 

In order to avoid future litigation regarding the ownership of the domain, it is best to initially register a trademark in Belgium, copyrights, trade names and indicate the location of the company.

However, if a dispute over the right to own a domain name still arises, it is best to resort to alternative methods for resolving disputes in Belgium. In Belgium, domain name dispute resolution usually takes place at the CEPANI/CEPINA Arbitration Institute.

Taxation of Digital Business in Belgium

The two taxes digital & traditional businesses in Belgium have to pay include:

  • income tax
  • VAT

There is no separate digital taxation in the country.

Dispute Resolution & Applicable Law

As a rule, in all agreements (including online ones) where the parties are legal entities, the applicable law is expressly provided for in the agreement itself. In cases where one of the parties is a consumer, the Economic Code of Belgium is applied. When it comes to resolving a dispute in Belgium, the parties are required to choose a jurisdiction as per EU legislation on contractual obligations.

As noted above, there are no specialized courts in Belgium to handle digital disputes. The Belgian Arbitration Court is authorized to resolve disputes between legal entities, and cases involving consumers must be referred to civil courts.

To sum up, running a digital business in Belgium requires knowing all aspects of this jurisdiction. If you need legal assistance with registering a company in Belgium, IQ Decision UK can handle that for you. Our experienced lawyers will also help you to get a cryptoasset license in Belgium.