APD/GBA (Belgium) - 01/2021

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APD/GBA - 01/2021
Authority: APD/GBA (Belgium)
Jurisdiction: Belgium
Relevant Law: Article 60 GDPR
Article 30 Constitution Belge
Article 57 Loi portant création de l'Autorité de protection des données
Article 60 Loi portant création de l'Autorité de protection des données
Type: Other
Outcome: n/a
Decided: 08.01.2021
Published: 15.01.2021
Fine: None
Parties: IAB Europe
National Case Number/Name: 01/2021
European Case Law Identifier: n/a
Appeal: Geschillenkamer
Original Language(s): French
Original Source: APD/GBA (in FR)
Initial Contributor: n/a

The Belgian DPA (APD/GBA) decided, in an interlocutory decision, on the language to be used in a procedure concerning GDPR complaints filed by complainants in various Member States against IAB Europe. The DPA chose French, as English is not a national language in Belgium and the defendant, who does not speak Dutch, requested French as the procedural language.

English Summary


The complainants, Johnny Ryan, Pierre Dewitte, Jeff Ausloos, Bruno Bidon, Panoptykon (NGO), Bits of Freedom (NGO) and La Ligue des Droits de l'Homme, filed several complaints against the Interactive Advertising Bureau Europe (IAB Europe) for various GDPR violations (including the principles of legality, transparency and fairness, minimisation and security among others). In total, 4 complaints were filed before the ADP and 5 before other data protection authorities through the IMI ( Internal Market Information) system. These complaints were therefore joint into one investigation.

As this is an international issue with complainants residing in various Member States, the Belgian DPA provides an interlocutory decision on the language of the procedure.


What language should the Belgian DPA use in a cross-border procedure concerning complaints by data subjects in different Member States?


The Belgian DPA outlined that it must first consider what language the complainants used to communicate with the DPA and what language the DPA used to communicate with them.

As Article 30 of the Belgian Constitution provides for "linguistic liberty", the complainant can address the DPA in any language. However, in terms of the language for a procedure, Article 57 of the Law on the creation of the data protection authority (Loi portant création de l'Autorité de protection des données) states that the DPA uses the language "in which the proceedings are conducted according to the specific needs of the case".

The complainants argued that Article 57 of the Law on the creation of the DPA was contrary to the constitutional provision cited above. However, the DPA held that it was not competent to address the legality of the Law in relation to the Constitution. It therefore went on to say that, Article 57 of the Law, read in combination with Article 60 of the same Law, provide that procedures must be conducted in one of the national languages.

In this context, the DPA noted that it generally follows the rule in which the language of the procedure reflects the language of the residence of the complainant. However, it also held that it can derogate from this rule depending on the need of the case (as per Article 57 Law on the creation of the DPA). The Belgian DPA therefore concluded, in this interlocutory decision, that it can derogate from the general rule of using the language of the complaint's residence given that IAB Europe does not speak Dutch and expressly requested that the language used by the DPA be French.

The DPA therefore decided to use French for this procedure, especially given the fact that this concerns a cross-border affair. The DPA also took into account that Article 60 on cooperation between DPAs will apply. It highlighted that English could be used as a second language only, as it is not a national language in Belgium. Nonetheless, the parties to the complaint are able to communicate to the DPA in either Dutch, French or English. The DPA added that no document and submission will be translated for the complainants, assuming that their lawyers speak French, Dutch and English and that such translation would lead to months-long delays. The official decision, once given, will be given in French, as well as English and Dutch.


This decision was appealed by the complainants. The language of the procedure was therefore reverted to Dutch: APD/GBA - 26/2021 and this interlocutory decision 01/2021 is amended.

The final decision has been issued by the Belgian DPA: APD/GBA (Belgium) - 21/2022

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English Machine Translation of the Decision

The decision below is a machine translation of the French original. Please refer to the French original for more details.


                                                                         Litigation Chamber

                                        Interlocutory decision 01/2021 of January 08, 2021

File No .: DOS-2019-01377

Subject: Language of the proceedings - complaint against IAB Europe

The Contentious Chamber of the Data Protection Authority, made up of Mr. Hielke

Hijmans, president, and Messrs Yves Poullet and Christophe Boeraeve, members, taking over the case

in this composition;

 Having regard to Regulation (EU) 2016/679 of the European Parliament and of the Council of April 27, 2016 relating to

protection of individuals with regard to the processing of personal data and the

free movement of such data, and repealing Directive 95/46 / EC (general regulation on

data protection), hereinafter GDPR;

Considering the law of 3 December 2017 creating the Data Protection Authority (hereinafter LCA);

Having regard to the internal regulations as approved by the Chamber of Representatives on

December 20, 2018 and published in the Belgian Official Gazette on January 15, 2019;

Having regard to the APD's letter of October 09, 2020 inviting the parties to send their conclusions in French,

but allowing them to send them in English if this were to be prejudicial to a party;

Having regard to the letters from Me Debusseré and Me Roex, lawyers for six plaintiffs, dated respectively 27

November 2020, as well as from 03 and 07 December 2020, in which they ask, in essence:

- that the complainants can express themselves both in writing and orally in Dutch, and that the

    the defendant can do the same in French;

- to receive the defendant's written documents as well as all the other documents present at the

    dossier (including inspection service report) in Dutch;

- that communication between the APD and the complainants take place in Dutch;

- that the final decision be rendered in both Dutch and French. Interlocutory decision 01/2021 - 2/6

Having regard to the APD's letter to Me Debusseré, Me Roex, as well as to Mr. Bidon and the defendant of 09

December 2020, in which the Litigation Chamber:

- indicates that French is maintained as the language of the proceedings;

- declined the request for a Dutch-language version of the Inspection Service report;

- offers the parties to express themselves in their own language (written and oral), and to receive the

    documents from the opposing party without translation;

Considering the letter from Me Debusseré and Me Roex of December 14, 2020 in which they add the requests


- a version of the inspection report in Dutch and French, in which the quotes from

    case law in English would be translated;

- a new version of the conclusions (in English) already sent by the defendant, in

    French, based on an inspection report from which the passages in English would be translated,

    as well as a corresponding new closing schedule;

- that the defendant receive French translations of the conclusions of the


Having regard to the letter from IAB Europe, defendant of January 3, 2021, in which she indicated that she wished

continue to speak English;

Considering the documents in the file;

took the following decision regarding:

    - the complainants:

             - Mr Johnny Ryan

             - Mr Pierre Dewitte

             - Mr Jeff Ausloos

             - Mr Bruno Bidon

             - NGO Panoptykon

             - NGO Bits of Freedom

             - The Human Rights League

    - the defendant: IAB Europe Interlocutory decision 01/2021 - 3/6

    1. Facts and procedural history

1. Several complaints have been lodged against Interactive Advertising Bureau Europe (IAB hereafter),

    for violation of several provisions of the GDPR (in particular the principle of lawfulness, transparency,

    loyalty, minimization, security, obligation of information ...), for large-scale processing

    of personal data.

2. Nine identical or very similar complaints were filed, including four to the Protection Authority

    Data ("DPA" below) directly, and five to supervisory authorities in other

    countries of the European Union via the IMI system.

3. The four complaints were lodged directly with the APD respectively on May 20, 2019 (DOS-

    2019-02837), June 4, 2019 (DOS-2019-03124), July 2, 2019 (DOS-2019-03668), and 26

    November 2020 (this complaint was directly attached to file DOS-2019-01377).

4. The five IMI complaints were filed respectively on March 1, 2019 (DOS-2019-01377), on

    July 2019 (DOS-2019-04052), August 08, 2019 (DOS-2019-04210), August 19, 2019 (DOS-2019-

    04269), December 16, 2019 (DOS-2019-02653).

5. The Inspection Service of the APD was also seized on its own initiative in the 2020-

    02653, file which was attached to file DOS-2019-01377.

6. The aforementioned files were all joined in a single case taken up under the DOS-2019- file.

    01377, as long as the complaints are the same or very similar.

7. The complainants gave their consent to this joinder, as well as to the request of the Chamber

    Litigation to unite their conclusions and send common games, for the sake of economy and

    efficiency of the procedure.

8. In this international case, three plaintiffs are domiciled in Belgium, one in Ireland,

    four in different EU states but are represented by the NGO Panoptykon with its headquarters in

    Poland, and one complainant is represented by the NGO Bits of Freedom based in the Netherlands.

    The complainants therefore reside in the various linguistic areas.

9. In view of the international character of this case, the Contentious Chamber is considering the

    present interlocutory decision on the language of the proceedings. Interlocutory decision 01/2021 - 4/6

     2. Motivation

10. As part of the analysis of the language of the proceedings, a distinction should be made

     between the language in which the parties address the ODA of the language in which the ODA

     is for those.

11. With regard to the language in which the parties address the ODA, Article 30 of the
     Constitution guarantees linguistic freedom.

12. With regard to the language of the proceedings before the DPA, that is to say the language in which

     ODA is addressed to the parties, article 57 of the ODA law provides within the framework of the procedure

     litigation in the handling of complaints that "the DPA uses the language in which the procedure

     is conducted according to the specific needs of the case ". Although counsel for six plaintiffs points out that

     Article 57 LCA is contrary to the Constitution, it is not for the Contentious Chamber to

     express itself on this subject, insofar as it is, as an organ of the ODA, linked to the organic law

     who invests his powers in him. It is not within its competence to comment on compliance

     with the Constitution of the organic law.

13. The Contentious Chamber therefore applies article 57 of the organic law. Read in

     in combination with article 60 of this law, proceedings are conducted in one of the languages

     national. There is no other language legislation directly applicable to the procedure

     before the House. The law of June 15, 1935 concerning the use of languages in judicial matters

     does not apply to the Litigation Chamber, as it is not a judicial body.

     The law of July 18, 1966 on the use of languages in administrative matters does not apply either.

     more due to the existence of the specific provision of article 57 of the ODA law and of the principle

     by lex specialis.

14. For the implementation of this provision, the Litigation Chamber applies in principle the rule
     according to which the language of the proceedings is the language of the place of residence of the complainant. As

     stipulated in article 57 of the GBA law, this main rule may be waived according to the needs of

     the case.

15. In the present case, insofar as IAB Europe does not have a command of Dutch and has expressly

     requested the use of French in its exchanges with the Inspection Service, and taking into

     account of the fact that its statutes are drafted in French, the contacts between the Inspection Service

     and IAB Europe were largely conducted in this language. As stated in the note

     on the language policy of the Litigation Chamber, now available on the APD website,

1Article 30 of the Constitution: “The use of languages used in Belgium is optional; it can only be regulated by law,
and only for acts of public authority and for legal matters. "

2 As indicated in a note on the use of languages, available on the APD website:
ons Interlocutory decision 01/2021 - 5/6

    the Chamber may derogate from the general rule of use of the language of the place of residence of the

    complainant in the event that the defendant does not speak this language, and asks

    the use of another (national) language.

16. The Contentious Chamber therefore maintains French as the language of the proceedings,

    also takes into account the international character of this case as well as the many parties

    involved and multiple complaints in several EU member states joined together

    folder. The implementation of cooperation between the lead authority (ODA in this case

    case) and the relevant supervisory authorities (art 60 GDPR) is also taken into account. If a

    second language was to be used, English would be appropriate, as long as cooperation

    between supervisory authorities takes place in this language. This is not a national language.

17. Nevertheless, as regards the language in which the parties address the ODA the Chamber

    Litigation decides on the basis of article 57 of the organic law to leave the possibility to the parties

    express themselves in the language of their choice (limited to French, Dutch or English) both in

    their conclusions until the upcoming hearing.

18. No translation will be provided of the written documents (conclusions, documents in the file, etc.), in the

    insofar as, in the present case, the Contentious Chamber considers that the lawyers of the plaintiffs

    and they are fluent in French, Dutch and English. In addition, translations

    systematic would cause months of delay in the procedure. However, the House is of the opinion

    that in this particular case, given the interests represented and the scope of the case,

    a decision as soon as possible is desirable. In the present case, the Chamber considers

    therefore it is in the interest of the smooth running of the procedure to avoid unnecessary translations.

19. The official decision of the DPA will be issued in French, and a translation into Dutch and English

    will be made available to the parties simultaneously with the French version. These translations will be

    also published on the APD website.

20. The APD also accepts the underlying supporting documents in French and Dutch, as well
    only in English. The fact that certain central reports in this procedure and in complaints

    filed in English was also taken into consideration.

21. In view of the importance of transparency in the decision-making process and

    decisions of the Litigation Chamber, as well as due to the specificity and public interest

    present in this decision, it will be published on the website of the French

    Data protection. In view of the previous publicity on this case, the Chamber

    Litigation has decided not to delete the direct identification data of the parties and

    persons cited, whether natural or legal.

3 See in particular decision 61/2020, point 29 Interlocutory decision 01/2021 - 6/6



Decide, after deliberation:

- conduct the proceedings in French, while allowing the parties to express themselves, both in their

    conclusions only during the hearing, in French, Dutch or English.

- not to provide translations of written documents submitted in one of these three languages

- render the final decision in French, and simultaneously communicate to the parties a

    Dutch and English version, versions which will also be made available on the site

    of ODA

In view of the impact of this case, and to the extent that this question is raised for the first time

times before the Contentious Chamber, following an exchange of contradictory views of the parties

on this specific question, the Litigation Chamber adopted an interlocutory decision instead

a position paper on the procedure.

This interlocutory decision may be appealed against to the Procurement Court within a

30 days from its notification (art. 108 § 1 of the law of 3 December 2017 establishing

of the Data Protection Authority) with the Data Protection Authority as


(se.) Hielke Hijmans

President of the Litigation Chamber