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    Seven out of ten shopkeepers victims of unfair practices

    Seven out of ten businesses suffer as a result of unfair trading practices. The finding comes from a study by the Benelux Secretariat General, reported in La Libre and La Dernière Heure on Tuesday. The shops are subject to territorial supply restrictions (“TSR”), owing to having more expensive prices or more restricted product ranges, compared to neighbouring countries.

    The Price Observatory unit within the FPS Economy had already made the observation in March. Belgian consumers pay an average of 10% to 20% more for products in supermarkets, than in neighbouring countries. A phenomenon linked to higher wage costs in Belgium, less beneficial VAT and excise regimes, but also to the famous TSR.

    Kris Peeters, Minister for the Economy (Flemish Christian Democrats), cited by La Libre, says, “There are obstacles set up by suppliers to discourage imports from other countries, so as to be able to implement higher prices.”

    Across all of the shops questioned, 88% state being faced with TSR, linked to power relations, often unilateral between shopkeepers and the companies supplying them. All sectors are targeted, with the consequence of higher prices, a more limited range and lower profit margins (for 71% of those surveyed).

    The trade federation, Comeos, stresses, “The phenomenon is significant, especially for small traders who struggle to compete with worldwide groups.”

    Kris Peeters asserts that he has sent the study results to the European Commission, and believes that “solutions must be found.”

    Oscar Schneider 
    The Brussels Times