BRUSSELS, April 23 Belgium must lift its ban on
retailers tying together the sale of separate products, such as
throwing in a handset with a mobile phone contract, the European
Union's top court said on Thursday.
Belgian Economy Minister Vincent Van Quickenborne said in a
statement he was satisfied with the ruling and aimed to end the
ban, which has been in place since 1935, before the summer.
"It restricts the competitiveness of our companies vis-a-vis
other countries. It excludes the advantage of all kinds of
promotional offers and discounts for consumers," the minister
said in a statement.
Consumer groups and retail organisations have called for an
end to the restrictions.
Opposition to the rule grew stronger when Apple's iPhone
went on sale last year at a higher price in Belgium than
elsewhere, because exclusive operator Mobistar MSTAR.BR was
not able to tie the sales to a Mobistar phone contract.
The EU ruling is binding, which means Belgium will have to
adjust its legislation to avoid sanctions, a spokesman for the
EU court of justice said.
The case came to the European court in response to Total
Belgium's (TOTF.PA) offer in 2007 for free breakdown services
for customers filling up at its services stations and a magazine
with a voucher for reductions at lingerie shops.
Both were challenged at the Antwerp Commercial Court, which
asked the European Court of Justice for a ruling on the issue.
(Reporting by Antonia van de Velde; Editing by Rupert