IAB Europe responds to Belgian authority TCF data ruling

tcf Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixaba

Belgium’s Court of Appeal, the Belgian Market Court has referred an appeal from adtech industry group IAB Europe against a data consent breach ruling made earlier this year to the European Court of Justice.

At stake is how internet users consent to having their data tracked by adtech companies across the European Union in what is now a complicated minefield of rules and regulations linked to the General Data Protection Regulation.  

The court also referred an appeal against an earlier ruling that IAB Europe’s advertising consent mechanism, TCF, falls foul of wider GDPR rules and how it may need to change it in order to make it compliant.


IAB Europe’s consent system, the Transparency & Consent Framework, TCF, is the most widely used framework in the economic bloc.   

IAB Europe said it has acknowledged the interim ruling handed down on Wednesday by the Belgian Market Court (part of the Brussels Court of Appeal) in connection with IAB Europe’s appeal of the February 2022 decision by the Belgian Data Protection Authority (APD) on the industry body and the TCF. 

In its interim ruling, the Belgian Market Court has decided to refer preliminary questions to the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) on how the concept of data controllership in the GDPR as it pertains, in this case, is to be interpreted and on whether a TC String (a digital signal containing user preferences) can be considered as “personal data” under the GDPR. 

The referral to the CJEU means that a final judgement by the Market Court is unlikely until 2023 or even 2024.

IAB Europe said it welcomed the Market Court’s decision to seek guidance from the CJEU. 

“The interpretation of the notions of personal data and controllership embraced by the APD is unnecessarily broad from a consumer protection point of view and has significant negative implications for the development of open standards and the Codes of Conduct foreseen in the GDPR,” said Townsend Feehan, IAB Europe’s CEO.  

“It would place an unacceptable financial burden on host organisations, discouraging the development of these important compliance tools”.