Basis banking service now also available for enterprises

On 23 October 2020, the Belgian Parliament has approved a law which makes a basic banking service available for enterprises (including self-employed persons, companies and non-profit associations), something which private persons have enjoyed for 15 years.
In multiple sectors (especially the diamond, gaming, restaurant, and football sectors) entrepreneurs frequently have difficulties to find a financial institution which is ready to provide a minimum of banking services. After all, financial institutions are hesitant to do so as they find it more difficult to identify their potential client and comply with anti-money laundering regulations when working with these sectors. In many cases entire categories of enterprises are even entirely left without any services. This is problematic as a company cannot be incorporated or a business cannot be started in Belgium without having access to a bank account.

Thanks to the new law an enterprise located in Belgium which is registered with the Belgian commercial register, or which requests such registration, may have a right to obtain a basic banking service after having been refused at least three times by a financial institution to receive access to a minimum of banking services.

Such refusal must be motivated by a financial institution and sent to the enterprise within 10 business days following the receipt of the request. An enterprise can be refused as a customer based on anti-money laundering regulations, or when it already maintains a bank account in Belgium or in another member state of the European Union which grants access to a minimum of banking services.
After three of such refusals, the enterprise can request a basic banking service at the chamber for basic banking service of the Federal Public Service of Economy which will request advice from the Financial Information Processing Unit (FIPU). Pursuant to a positive advice of the FIPU – or a lack of reaction within 60 days -, the chamber for basic banking service shall appoint a provider of basic banking services, which can only refuse such appointment based on limited grounds.

The basic banking service will allow enterprises to conduct simple payment transactions, such as direct debits, cash deposits and bank transfers. The service will be offered in euro or, at the enterprises’s request, in US dollar. Enterprises must be able to enjoy these services both physically (in the bank itself or at an ATM) and online. A debit card should therefore be made available. However, no credit may be provided under the basic banking service.
The new law will enter into force 6 months after its date of publication, giving banks enough time to prepare themselves.

If you have any further questions regarding the new basic banking service for enterprises, please contact our finance partner Dieter Veestraeten at dve@astrealaw.be.

Op 23 oktober 2020 heeft de Kamer een wetsvoorstel goedgekeurd dat ook voor ondernemingen (zowel zelfstandigen, vennootschappen als vzw’s) de deur opent naar een basisbankdienst zoals deze reeds 15 jaar bestaat voor particulieren.
In verschillende sectoren (zoals de diamantsector, de kansspelsector, de horecasector of de voetbalsector) kampen ondernemers met het probleem dat zij moeilijk een financiële instelling vinden die bereid is om een minimum aan betaaldiensten te leveren. Financiële instellingen staan immers huiverig tegenover het aanbieden van zulke diensten in sectoren waar de identificatie van de potentiële klant en de naleving van de antiwitwaswetgeving moeilijker kan zijn. Vaak worden zulke sectoren zelfs helemaal niet bediend. Dit is problematisch nu men in België in de praktijk geen vennootschap kan oprichten of geen onderneming kan opstarten zonder te beschikken over een bankrekening.

Dankzij de nieuwe wet zal een in België gevestigde onderneming die ingeschreven is in de Kruispuntbank van Ondernemingen (KBO), of deze inschrijving aanvraagt, na ten minste driemaal een weigering te hebben ontvangen van een financiële instelling van haar aanvraag om minimale betalingsdiensten te verkrijgen, een recht op een basisbankdienst kunnen bekomen.
De weigering van een dergelijke aanvraag moet door de financiële instelling gemotiveerd worden en binnen 10 werkdagen na ontvangst van de aanvraag worden medegedeeld aan de onderneming. Een onderneming kan o.a. geweigerd worden als klant op basis van de antiwitwaswetgeving, of indien zij reeds een betaalrekening in België of een andere lidstaat van de Europese Unie aanhoudt die haar de toegang tot zulke minimale betaaldiensten verleent.

Na drie van zulke weigeringen kan de onderneming een basisbankdienst aanvragen bij de basisbankdienst-kamer binnen de FOD Economie dewelke dan een advies zal vragen aan de Cel voor Financiële Informatieverwerking (CFI). Na positief advies van de CFI – of een gebrek aan enige reactie binnen 60 dagen – zal de basisbankdienst-kamer een aanbieder van de basisbankdiensten aanwijzen, die deze toewijzing nog slechts op beperkte gronden kan weigeren.

Met de basisbankdienst kunnen ondernemingen eenvoudige betalingstransacties uitvoeren, zoals domicilieringen, storting van contanten en bankoverschrijvingen. De dienst wordt hen in euro of, op verzoek, in Amerikaanse dollar aangeboden. Ondernemingen moeten zowel fysiek (aan het loket in de bank of aan de bankautomaat), als online, van deze diensten kunnen genieten. Hiertoe dient ook een debetkaart te kunnen worden gebruikt. Er mag echter geen krediet worden verleend onder de basisbankdienst.

De wet zal in werking treden na 6 maanden volgend op de datum van publicatie ervan, zodat banken voldoende tijd hebben om zich hierop voor te bereiden.
Heeft u meer vragen over de nieuwe basisbankdienst voor ondernemingen? Contacteer dan onze finance partner Dieter Veestraeten (dve@astrealaw.be)

ASTREA ADVISED ON BELGIAN LAW ASPECTS OF UNITANK SALE TO DIF AND ASI

Astrea partners Dieter Veestraeten and Steven De Schrijver have advised the sellers on the Belgian law aspects of a transaction involving the signing of an agreement on the sale of 100% of the shares in UNITANK to DIF’s Core Infrastructure Fund I and Aberdeen Standard Investments’ SL Capital Infrastructure II SCSp.

Astrea assisted Efico with respect to an amendment of its multicurrency facility agreement

Dieter Veestraeten and his team assisted Efico, a company trading in green coffee and cocoa since 1926 with headquarters in Antwerp with respect to an amendment of its multicurrency facility agreement with a consortium of Belgian banks.

Assistance with respect to the refinancing of the real estate portfolio of Group Bernaerts

Dieter Veestraeten and his team assisted Group Bernaerts, a family owned real estate group based in Antwerp, with respect to the refinancing of its real estate portfolio in Antwerp, Mechelen and Willebroek. The portfolio consists of office buildings, semi industrial buildings and logistic warehouses.

Berry Westhoff, CFO of Group Bernaerts: “We have a longstanding strong and fruitful relationship with Astrea. Dieter Veestraeten is a solid counsel with an indepth knowledge of the financial industry and real estate market. We can always count on Dieter. He is a very responsive, pro-active advisor with an extreme dedication to the job and to us as his client. ”

Astrea advised on belgian law aspects of Unitank sale to DIF and ASI

Astrea partners Dieter Veestraeten and Steven De Schrijver have advised on the Belgian law aspects of a transaction involving the signing of an agreement on the sale of 100% of the shares in UNITANK to DIF’s Core Infrastructure Fund I and Aberdeen Standard Investments’ SL Capital Infrastructure II SCSp.

You can read the full article on this transaction here.

Dieter Veestraeten contributed the belgian chapter to the Legal 500: Lending & Secured Finance Country Comparative Guide

Astrea Banking & Finance Partner Dieter Veestraeten has contributed the Belgian Chapter to The Legal 500: Lending & Secured Finance Country Comparative Guide (2nd Edition).

The Legal 500’s Country Comparative Guides give a practical overview of the laws and regulations across a variety of jurisdictions, for specific practice areas.

The Lending & Secured Finance Country Comparative Guide provides information about foreign lenders, interest, security registration requirements, guarantees and tax incentives.

Each country chapter is written by leading lending and secured finance lawyers and industry specialists in an easy to use Q&A format.

Use the following link to read the complete chapter written by Dieter Veestraeten online: https://www.legal500.com/guides/chapter/belgium-lending-secured-finance/ or download a PDF version of the chapter here: Lending & Secured Finance Country Comparative Guide – Belgian chapter.

Dieter Veestraeten contributed the belgian chapter to the International Comparative Legal Guide to Lending & Secured Finance 2020

Astrea Banking & Finance Partner Dieter Veestraeten has contributed the Belgian Chapter 30 of the International Comparative Legal Guide (ICLG) to Lending & Secured Finance 2020 (8th edition).

The ICLG to Lending & Secured Finance covers common issues in lending and secured finance laws and regulations – including guarantees, collateral security, financial assistance, syndicated lending/ agency/trustee/transfers. The Country Question and Answer Chapters give a broad overview of common issues in the laws and regulations of this practice area in 40 jurisdictions.

All chapters are written by leading lending and secured finance lawyers and industry specialists.

Use the following link to read the complete chapter written by Dieter Veestraeten online: https://iclg.com/practice-areas/lending-and-secured-finance-laws-and-regulations/belgium or download a PDF version of the chapter here: ICLG to Lending & Secured Finance 2020.