EU accuses AB InBev of abusing competition laws

The European Commission has published the findings of a year-long investigation in which it accuses brewing giant AB InBev of abusing its dominant market position in Belgium to keep prices high – breaching EU competition rules.

In a statement sent to the brewer on Thursday 30 November, competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager said the brand was “unfairly blocking” supermarkets and wholesalers from buying brands such as Jupiler and Leffe at lower prices than they were sold for in France and the Netherlands where the same brands were cheaper because of the “increased competition” in those countries.

She said: “Belgian consumers may have had to pay more for their favourite beers.

“Our preliminary finding is that AB InBev may have deliberately prevented cheaper beer imports out of France and the Netherlands from reaching consumers in Belgium. Such practices would breach EU competition rules, because they deny consumers the benefits of the EU single market – choice and lower prices.”

Furthermore, the commission claimed that, in a “deliberate strategy” lasting “at least eight years”, AB InBev printed labels in either French of Dutch for those markets, it limited the ability of wholesalers to export beers to Belgium.

It also alleged that certain Dutch retailers with wholesaler contracts in Belgium had seen their purchasing and promotion opportunities deliberately limited.

In a statement AB InBev replied: “It would not be appropriate for us to comment further concerning the European Commission’s decision to issue a Statement of Objections in relation to certain alleged practices on the Belgian beer market, other than that we have been working constructively with the EC since the investigation was announced in June 2016.

“Today’s announcement is a procedural step. A Statement of Objections is not a final decision on the outcome of the case. We refer to the Commission’s press release.

“As a company, we take compliance very seriously. Integrity and ethics are part of our core values, embodied in our company culture. As the world’s leading brewer it is our aspiration that all of our 200,000 colleagues act with the highest ethical standards.”

The brewer now has a chance to respond to the charges although there is no timeline in which it has to complete its own investigation.

One Response to “EU accuses AB InBev of abusing competition laws”

  1. Peter Bowyer says:

    A lerge multi-national drinks company not acting in the interests of the consumer and trying to manipulate a competitive market – surely not..?

    Is this April 1st? Such paragons of virtuosity would never be seen to stoop to these sorts of levels; oh yes, they weren’t seen at the time, just got found out later.

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