Association of the Belgian Publishers

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News : What’s Happening ?

The preliminary draft text is now in the hands of the Conseil d’État, whose opinion is expected before summer. Following on from this, it will pass before the Gouvernement de la Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles for the fourth time, before being presented to Parliament in autumn.

The regulations (drafts of decrees)

The period of time for no variation of the price is 24 months (the Flemish decree, in force since the beginning of 2017, is six months). The precise methods of this ‘cultural regulation of the price of books’ are:

  • Scientific and School/Educational Publishers: Scientific and educational works are part of the field of application of the regulation. The proposed decree would allow for a reduction of 40% in favour of teaching and scientific establishments for the acquisition of these manuals.

For legal publishers, certain ‘specialist legal books’ are excluded from the legalisation: these are those which can be subject to a price mutually agreed to by the publisher-retailer and the buying organisation insofar as these sales often include update services or specific adaptations linked to the evolution of Belgian and European laws; being specified that the publisher remains bound to fixing a price for all other sales (article 4 of the preliminary draft of decrees).

Specific methods are also outlined for the ‘specialist book’ (a scientific work with very detailed content which is regularly updated, whose presentation, marketing and often high pricing levels aim it towards a market made up of legal entities (businesses, professional practices, civil services, university or higher education institutions…). For the specialist book, publishers are free to decide upon their own prices for sales to certain legal entities (article 10, § 2: teaching establishments, lending institutions, non-profit organisations with a social objective and whose main activity is of an educational purpose, etc.), as long as these prices are made public.

  • Comics: The general principal of a fixed price for the duration of 24 months is brought down to twelve months for comic books only. It also outlines exclusion from the six month rule after the last supply.
  • Digital publications: The definition of digital books remains a delicate issue, due to the rapid evolution of technology. The regulations outline that digital publishers can vary the price when they vary a factor of the sale (Drm, downloading or streaming, the number of possible copies, etc.).
  • Mark-up : not allowed for a period of two years.

 

A regulation on the Price of the Book which would concern only one community would not make sense: an agreement of cooperation must be made with the other communities (Flanders and the German-speaking community), as well as with the Région de Bruxelles-Capitale. The objective proclaimed by the relevant ministers in the north and south of the country is to reach a common agreement on Brussels for January 2018.

 

Objectives:

  • Suppress unfair and disproportionate discounts within the book market.
  • Set up a flexible structure to regulate the price of the book, taking into account both the specifities of the Belgian market and EU regulations.


History

April 2003 - As a reminder, the bill of the Minister Picqué (PS) was blocked in the Senate following too many amendments and the dissolution of Parliament in the elections of June 2003. In December 2003, a bill containing the legislation of the previous parliament but excluding the amendments filed by the economic Committee of La Chambre (Lalieux K., M. Gerkens, R. Langendries, T. Peeters, S . Verherstraeten and E. Van Weert).

The ADEB reacted strongly by submitting its sectorialized position to the President and all members of the economic Committee of La Chambre while asking again to be heard by the committee. Following the reaction of ADEB, hearings were held in La Chambre (February 18, 2004) to hear the representatives of the various links in the supply chain. The ADEB, represented by its vice-chairman "Distributors", the chairman of the "Book Price Committee" and its director, insisted once again on legislation that would include a discount of 10% (against 5% predicted) extended to all types of books for a period of 12 months and ideally an 18% discount limited to local (see the sectorialized position ADEB passed unanimously in the General Assembly on 13/06/03).

Meanwhile, Boek.be (body bringing together the various players in the book industry on the Dutch side) offered during February 2004 Office of the Minister of economy, Mrs. F. Moerman, a "Gentlemen's Agreement", which had previously joined publishers, distributors and booksellers Flemish, based on a 10% discount for 6 months. Following the two meetings held with the Office of the Minister F. Moerman, it was proposed to possibly write a royal decree to this effect. Finally, recently the Prime Minister, G. Verhofstadt also seemed to want to take an initiative based on a 10% discount for 6 to 12 months but no cap to communities and includes a period of balance. ADEB voiced its sectorialized position again.

To date, none of these initiatives has led certainly given the difficulty of finding a consensus between the various parties involved and the specificity of the book market in Belgium (remember, 70% of French-language books are imported from France and 50% of Dutch books imported from the Netherlands). In addition, the retail sector is fiercely opposed to the establishment of fixed book prices.
Also note that the chairman of the FDF, Mr. O. Maingain inquired throughout this year's developments by repeatedly questioning ADEB on its position on various book pricing proposals. For information, in addition to five meetings and meetings outside of its Book Price Committee, ADEB exchanged some 70 letters on this issue with others within the government and granted several interviews to the press.

Sectorialized position
Here ADEB’s sectorialized position on book pricing.


Composition

The Committee is composed of :

  • Marc-Olivier Lifrange (De Boeck Professionals), Chairman.
  • Olivier Barbe (MDS Benelux)
  • Simon Casterman (Casterman)
  • Anne Lemaire (Interforum)
  • Patrick Moller (Dilibel)