E-commerce in Belgium
- Sandra Visser-Meijer
- 17 December 2019
- Edited 6 November 2023
- 4 min
- Managing and growing
The Belgian e-commerce market is growing rapidly. While Belgians spend the most on travel and trips, online purchases of fashion products, electronics, and gaming entertainment increased by a third by 2021. For larger and more expensive purchases, Belgian people prefer using their laptops or desktops, while more and more small online purchases are being made on smartphones.
If you want to take your online shop to the Belgian e-commerce market, you will have to take local product requirements, laws, and regulations into account. A local domain name will help you reach your Belgian customers, as will a professional translation of website content. After reading this article, you will know exactly what to look out for.
Belgian rules and legislation
Dutch businesses looking to start an online shop in Belgium do not have to meet any specific rules, as local legislation follows the European rules for e-commerce. It is important to keep local product requirements and product legislation in mind, however, as Belgium has stricter labelling requirements than the Netherlands, to name but one example. In Belgium, labels have to feature 3 languages: French, German, and Dutch, depending on the region in which you sell the product. Belgium has a Food (in Dutch) and the Flemish waste law introduced a so-called 'acceptance ' for discarded batteries. If you sell products that contain batteries from the Netherlands to Belgian consumers, this legislation also applies to you.
To encourage international business, the Benelux area has launched a web portal for retailers with links to (in Dutch) that specialise in e-commerce and legislation.
Belgium's Packaging Act is stricter than its Dutch counterpart. You will have to comply with this act if your online shop sells packaged products to Belgian consumers. You have to be officially registered if you place more than 300 kg of packaging material on the Belgian market. For smaller amounts, you do not have to be registered.
The registry is managed by Belgium’s Interregional Packaging (Interregionale Verpakkingscommissie, IVC). This is the government agency responsible for legislation on packaging waste and transit waste. For more information about the various rules in Belgium, visit the IVC . If you fail to comply with the rules, you may be .
Applying for a local domain name
Google is the most popular search engine in Belgium. Google prefers local websites, so you do not stand much chance on the Belgian e-commerce market with a .nl extension. Registering a local domain name is a good way to lure more Belgium customers to your shop.
Websites with a .be, .vlaanderen, or .brussels extension are registered with DNS . To register a domain name, you need a hosting provider or registrar. DNS Belgium has a list of and guidance on for domain names. Registering a domain name is free for businesses, organisations, and private citizens, and you do not have to be based in or a resident of Belgium.
Belgium has 3 national languages; Dutch, French, and German. About 40% of Belgians are French-speaking. Although they seem very similar, there are clear differences between Dutch and Flemish. The Dutch word for sale, for example, is ‘uitverkoop’, while Belgian people call it ‘solden’. Have your website content translated or checked by a Flemish and/or French-speaking copywriter, and investigate which words and search terms your Belgian competitors use on their websites.
Tailor your SEO keywords to a Flemish-speaking market: Belgian consumers looking to buy a dress will not search for a ‘jurk’ but a ‘kleedje’.
E-commerce trust marks
BeCommerce is the Belgian umbrella organisation for e-commerce. Belgian people feel more comfortable buying products from an online shop with a trust mark, such as:
- Unizo (in Dutch)
- (in Dutch)
As in the Netherlands, you are not required to have an e-commerce trust mark in Belgium, but they do lend credibility to your online shop. On top of that, trust marks will be adapted to sector-specific Belgian legislation and usually offer a local complaints centre. On top of a trust mark, you could also show customer reviews on your website to highlight your reliability and professionalism.
In November 2022, BeCommerce launched a trust mark for online security specifically for social influencers (in Dutch). Influencers get this trust (in Dutch) if they meet Belgian government requirements, such as transparency about advertising in their posts.
Belgian banks do not support iDEAL, the Dutch payment method. Instead, offer payment methods that are commonly used in Belgium. Bancontact is the most popular payment method in Belgium. It is very similar to iDEAL. Just like with iDEAL, payments via Bancontact are guaranteed and confirmed immediately. Credit card payments take second place, followed by PayPal. Important: in Belgium, a credit card is called a 'kredietkaart'.
VAT on distance sales in Belgium
For more information about Belgian tax rates, visit the website of the Federal Public Service for . The Belgian government checks whether businesses use the right VAT rate, focusing particularly on online shops that sell products to Belgian consumers and organisations without a VAT identification number. If your online shop sells products to Belgian consumers, the 'destination country principle‘ applies, which means that you have to charge Belgian to Belgian consumers.
There are two ways to file overseas VAT returns. The first way is to apply for a Belgian VAT number and file local VAT returns in Belgium. The second way is to sign your company up for the Union scheme under the One-Stop-Shop system of the Dutch tax authorities, who will then pass on the VAT to Belgium.
If your total sales to Belgian consumers and your other intra-EU consumer sales remain below the €10,000 threshold, you are allowed to continue to charge Dutch VAT as a Dutch online shop.
Find out everything you need to know about VAT and international business.
Total e-commerce sales in Belgium reached €11.7 billion in 2021, representing a 33% increase compared to 2020. According to Greet (in Dutch), managing director of Safeshops.be, “not all sectors have fully recovered from the pandemic yet, but the growth of e-commerce is showing no signs of slowing down. In fact, more and more consumers are going online every day.”