(Extrajudicial) alternative settlement options

The alternative dispute resolution landscape in a nutshell

Business mediationVarious forms of out-of-court commercial dispute settlement exist in Belgium.

There are in particular Ombudsmen , which possess a specific status and are usually free of charge for the consumer. See for instance the Ombudsmen for:

They take note of the points of view of the dispute’s stakeholders before they deliver an opinion, which is however not binding for the parties.

In addition to these ombudsmen, various professional associations from the private sector have collaborated with consumer organisations to set up bodies for the alternative resolution of commercial disputes, such as the Construction Reconciliation Commission and the AUTOMOTO Conciliation Commission. They try to find a solution to the dispute through a conciliation procedure.

We speak of dispute commissions when arbitration is used to settle a dispute. There are three such commissions as of now:

Disputes are settled by an arbitration college in which consumer organisations and professionals are equally represented. Their decisions are binding for the parties. You may also contact the Travel Disputes Commission for a conciliation procedure before trying arbitration.

The settlement can be ratified by a court of justice, which will give it the same legal value as a judgement and make it binding. This homologation may not be needed when the parties carry out the content of the decision without any problem.

Registered mediators and notified entities

The ombudsmen, conciliation commissions and dispute commissions have to respect specific legal conditions to be notified to the European Commission and call themselves ‘qualified entity’. Article 19 of book I: Definitions of the Code of Economic Law describes these qualified entities as any entity, private or created by a public authority, that practices out-of-court consumer dispute resolution and is featured on the list that the Federal Public Service Economy, SMEs, Self-employed and Energy draws up and sends to the European Commission in execution of Directive 2013/11/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 21 May 2013 on alternative dispute resolution for consumer disputes and amending Regulation (EC) No 2006/2004 and Directive 2009/22/EC.

They have to meet the legal criteria of

  • independence,

  • impartiality,

  • expertise,

  • freedom of the parties,

  • procedural fairness and

  • transparency.

The division External Actions of the Directorate-General for Economic Inspection of the FPS Economy (e-mail address: belmed@economie.fgov.be) audits these entities to check whether they still respect the conditions mentioned above.

Next to these classical alternative dispute resolution bodies, there are also independent mediators . They can be registered with the FPS Justice, if they meet specific training requirements. They mediate in a dispute between the parties and help them to look for a solution by themselves.

The settlement can be ratified by a court of justice upon request, and the limitation period is also suspended as soon as a registered mediator is appointed. There is no obligation to work with a registered mediator, but if you do not, the decision cannot be ratified and there is no suspension of the limitation period.  The FPS Justice keeps an up-to-date list of registered mediators (sorted by their specialities and location, available in FrenchExternal link or DutchExternal link).

Registered mediators take action on an individual basis. They are not a qualified entity in the sense of the law and are not notified to the European Commission. However they do have to comply with the legal requirements laid down in the mediation act (available in FrenchExternal link or DutchExternal link). You can find the conditions a mediator must fulfil to be registered on the website of the Federal Mediation Commission (available in FrenchExternal link or DutchExternal link), which is liable for the registrations.

Some registered mediators have concluded a cooperation protocol with Belmed, the online alternative dispute resolution platform of the FPS Economy.

And now, who can help you with your dispute?

With our search engine you can quickly find out who can help you to solve your dispute out of court.

Last update
6 March 2018