In an online survey, 68% of L'Anglophone readers told us they typically leave work after six o'clock in the evening. With most shops closing by six or seven, it's no wonder that on Saturdays, Belgium's shopping districts are crowded, parking is scarce and queues are long. Indeed for many, Saturday is the only day to find a new pair of shoes or replace that broken microwave oven.
Allowing shops to be open seven days a week might reduce congestion and provide greater flexibility for consumers, but at what price for workers and business owners? Here, in our inaugural edition of L'Anglophone, we have asked two opinion leaders to make their Best Case for and against.
Summarized by Karel Janssens, an attorney at Crowell&Moring in Brussels
A law known as the Act of 10 November 2006 governs the days and hours during which retail shops in Belgium are at liberty to open their doors to customers. The rules regarding the shops' freedom to hold sales and discount prices are set out in the Act of 14 July 1991, which we will address in a future column.
Generally speaking, shops must be closed on Sundays and, during the other days, must be closed between eight o'clock in the evening (nine on Fridays) and five o'clock in the morning. Among the exceptions to these regulations are those for shops in particular locations (including airports and petrol stations) and for shops selling certain items (e.g., video rentals, cigarettes and newspapers). Violators of the rules can be punished by seizure of inventory, shop closure, financial penalties ranging from 250 to 10,000 euros, and criminal charges with prison sentences of up to one year.