Belgian consumers ‘misled’ by architects’ fees
24 June 2004
BRUSSELS – Prices charged by Belgian architects should become fairer and more transparent in the wake of a European Commission decision that on Thursday condemned the current fee system.
The EU executive said the system operated by the Belgian Architects’ Association contravenes EU competition laws because it seeks to coordinate the pricing behaviour of architects in Belgium.
It said the controversial arrangement lays down an architect’s fees as a percentage of the works realized by the entrepreneur and applies to all architectural services provided in Belgium by independent service providers.
Regulators fined the association EUR 100,000 to discourage the practice, which they claim harms consumers. The Commission said the prices charged should ideally reflect an architect’s skills, efficiency, costs – and perhaps reputation – and should not depend solely on the value of the works or the price of the entrepreneur.
“Recommended prices can mislead consumers as to what is a reasonable price for the service they are receiving and as to whether this recommended price is negotiable,” EU Competition Commissioner Mario Monti said in a statement. “I hope this decision will encourage all professional bodies to abolish unjustified restrictions.”
Regulators said that architects should negotiate fees with every single client without any consideration from those charged by rivals.
Commission spokeswoman Amelia Torres told journalists that the investigation was part of a broader campaign by the EU executive to remove restrictive rules on professional services throughout the 25-nation bloc.
Earlier this year the Commission published a report urging the introduction of competition and increased transparency to the benefit of consumers, and plans to release a progress report on developments in the sector in 2005. “We are expecting progress to be made quickly in member states,” Torres said.
[Copyright Expatica 2004]
Subject : Belgian news