Share article:
Share article:

Tough new rules on the way for private detectives

© depositphotos

Belgium’s federal minister for home affairs, Annelies Verlinden (CD&V) is working on a new reform of the law on private detectives, the first since the law was last amended in 1991.

Eight years ago, the auditors in the home affairs ministry sounded the alarm bell, arguing that the profession of private investigator (PI), though regulated, was subject to far too few restrictions. Where police detectives are subject to ever stricter rules on how they conduct investigations, for private detectives nothing has changed in 30 years.

In order to work as a private detective in Belgium, you need a licence issued by the ministry. Currently there are 790 licenced private detectives operating, either as independents or employed by companies.

Insurance companies are most likely to employ PIs for the investigation of claims, for example AG Insurance (71), Ethias (57), AXA Belgium (58) and KBC Verzekeringen (31). Supermarkets and large chains like Brico, Carrefour and Delhaize employ PIs mainly to deal with thefts.

Other large companies – Proximus, Coca-Cola, NMBS, De Lijn, DHL – use PIs to deal with fraud.

The time has now come for an overhaul of the 1991 law, bringing it into the age of artificial intelligence, social media and location tracking.

A draft text has been developed after consultation with various partners,” said ministry spokesperson Sophie Demeyer, speaking to De Tijd.

The legal framework must be adapted to the spirit of the times – especially privacy rules and individual fundamental rights. The public investigation activities of the police and the judiciary have been profoundly amended over the past 20 years, but those of the private investigator profession have not.”

Among the changes being envisaged, comes a duty on the part of the PI to ensure that the commission given by a client is itself lawful, and that the client has a legitimate right, for example to track the movements of a spouse.

The intention and means of an investigation must in future be set down in writing. Third parties may only be questioned when they have given consent, and PIs may no longer pose as someone they are not to obtain information.

The results of every investigation must be set out in a final report, and may not then be used for any purpose other than the one set out in the initial contract.

Finally, PIs will have a legal responsibility to report any crime or offence detected to the proper authorities, even if incidental to the original purpose of the investigation.

Verlinden’s planned reforms are far-reaching, which is unlikely to make them welcome to the business world. The last time anyone tried to reform the industry, home affairs minister Joelle Milquet (cdH) in 2013, the opposition came not from the down-at-heel gumshoe of popular culture, but from the finance industry regulator Febelfin, from the employers’ federation FEB, from the insurance industry federation Assuralia, and all the way up to the National Bank.

Alan Hope
The Brussels Times

Latest news

Increase in number of people ‘asking King for mercy’ through royal pardons
More and more people living in Belgium have been seeking royal pardons, mainly for fines, largely as a result of it now being possible to send in ...
England now accepting cheaper Covid tests from fully vaccinated travellers
Fully vaccinated travellers who enter England from non-red countries will only be required to book a lateral flow test to take following their ...
Re-introducing face masks indoors considered as Covid-19 situation worsens
Belgium's council of ministers will hold an emergency meeting on Monday to discuss the worsening epidemiological situation, and reintroducing face ...
Federal museums to receive €2.9 million booster shot
Federal museums will receive an additional €2.9 million in support from the government for the fiscal year 2021, of which the first payouts will be ...
European Parliament emphasises healthy food and animal welfare in EU Farm to Fork Strategy
The European Parliament adopted this week a resolution on the EU Farm to Fork Strategy calling for a fair, healthy and environmentally-friendly food ...
Threats of strike action could affect Brussels’ STIB network from Monday
Brussels public transport operator STIB's trams, buses and metros could be affected from Monday 25 October onwards as the union representing the ...
Number of international adoptions in Belgium continues to drop
The number of regulated international adoptions authorised by Belgium further dropped in 2020, continuing an ongoing decreasing trend. Last ...
Disaster drill with emergency services held at Brussels Airport
Around 300 people took part in a disaster drill held was organised on Saturday by Brussels Airport in collaboration with external emergency services ...
Austria presents bill to legalise euthanasia
Austria’s government on Saturday presented its proposals for legalising assisted suicide, in response to a Constitutional Court ruling that the ...
Brussels’ Museum Night Fever draws in some 12,000 visitors
Some 12,000 participants took part in the 14th edition of Museum Night Fever in Brussels, with the 29 participating museums filled to the maximum ...
Relaunch of 10,000 steps campaign to get Flemish people moving
The Flemish government is breathing new life into its 10,000 steps campaign to get people in the region moving after a recent survey found that a ...
‘No scientific basis’ for giving everyone third dose, vaccine expert says
The head of Belgium's Vaccination Taskforce has argued that there is not enough scientific evidence to support the Flemish government's decision to ...