There are never many major changes taking place in August, but this year they include mail services, level crossings, a corona bonus, company law and some tourism information.
• Postal services: New service to receive registered mail
Bpost's free Sign For Me service will be available from August. It allows you to receive registered mail at home even if the recipient is absent. You will need to sign a power of attorney at the post office or post point beforehand.
Registered mail must normally be signed for when it is delivered to the recipient. If the addressee is absent, the mail carrier will leave a delivery notice. The addressee must then arrange to collect the item within 15 days from the post office or post point mentioned on the notice.
It will now be possible to mandate Bpost and authorise the service to deposit most registered letters directly in the recipient's letterbox.
To do this, you will have to register at a post office or post office point with your identity card. A confirmation e-mail will then be sent out, and you simply have to validate the subscription. The service will be available only to private individuals, in all post offices and post points in the country, from August.
Some registered mail will continue to require an actual signature from the recipient.
• A €500 corona bonus from employers
Companies that have performed well during the crisis will be able to grant their employees a corona bonus of up to €500 from 1 August.
This one-off bonus will take the form of a spending voucher. It can be issued until 31 December 2021.
The aim of the measure is twofold: to boost the purchasing power of employees and to contribute to the economic recovery following the coronavirus pandemic.
The bonus can be spent in certain shops and establishments in Belgium until 31 December 2022.
The bonus is discretionary, as the government has not set precise criteria for identifying companies that have had good results.
• Companies can be set up online from 1 August
From 1 August, it will be possible to set up a company digitally. Until now, entrepreneurs wishing to set up a company had to consult a notary in person to sign the deed.
From now on, it will be possible to sign the deed electronically, remotely, via a video conference with the notary. This digitisation applies to all legal persons and will not generate any additional costs for entrepreneurs.
In case of suspected fraud, a physical appearance can still be requested.
Every year, more than 32,000 companies are created in Belgium.
• Heavier fines for blocking a level crossing
Motorists who drive onto a level crossing when traffic is busy and cause a risk of being unable to move when the signal sounds will now be guilty of a level two offence, the second most serious, and will be liable for a fine of up to €1,000. Blocking a crossing is already an offence, but in future it will be treated less leniently.
“Last year, nine people died and four people were seriously injured as a result of dangerous behaviour on level crossings,” said spokesperson Jessica Nibelle of rail infrastructure company Infrabel, which last year had to deal with an average of one accident a week.
"Infrabel hopes that the new, stricter law will encourage all drivers to drive more carefully and that violators will be prosecuted. “
• No more cruise ships in historic centre of Venice
Starting today, the city of Venice will implement a blanket ban on cruise ships sailing up to the historic centre of the city – a Unesco world heritage site.
The problem of cruise ships sailing all the way up to the centre of the city and depositing millions of passengers every year has long been raised by city authorities and environment groups. The ships, the argument goes, come too close to historic buildings, and represent a danger to irreplaceable heritage.
More recently, the pandemic put a stop to cruises, but only a temporary pause. In June the first cruise ship since the start of the pandemic moored in the city as usual, only to be greeted by loud jeering from those present.
Jules Johnston/Alan Hope
The Brussels Times