The Globalization of Class Actions
Oxford Conference of 13 & 14 December 2007
Belgian Report on Class Actions
By Matthias E. STORME* & Evelyne TERRYN°
General procedural law
1. The Court system in general
(1) The Belgian legal system has basically one general court system of "ordinary courts" and
apart from that some specific courts. The Court system and the Procedural Law is moreover
basically an exclusive competence of the Federal authorities and not of the federated States1.
1.1. Ordinary courts and proceedings
(2) Before the ordinary courts, there are basically two types of procedure:
- the "civil procedure", which is to be followed in civil matters, including commercial, labour,
social security, administrative law and tax matters;
- the criminal procedure in criminal proceedings, but also relevant for plaintiffs joining their
"private" claim with the criminal proceedings (as a so-called "civil party") (which is possible
if the crime has caused damage to the plaintiff).
(3) There are important differences between both types or procedure: the criminal procedure
is dominated by the principles of concentration, orality (not strict), immediacy, etc. and
inquisitorial in its nature. The civil proceedings are not necessarily concentrated (esp. because
evidential proceedings are intermediary), do not have a distinction between trial and pre-trial,
are basically in writing with (only) a supporting role for oral pleadings and are defined by the
procedural autonomy of the parties.
The rules on costs in civil proceedings have recently (2007) been changed, and the losing
party now has to reimburse to a much greater extent the costs of the winning party than
before. Contingency fees remain forbidden. In most procedures, parties do not have to be
represented by a lawyer and can plead themselves. Lawyers appearing in court on the other
hand, do not need a written power of attorney.
1.2. "Objective" litigation