Report finds details of high profile beer price fixing in India

A report by the Competition Commission of India has uncovered evidence that leading figures at Carlsberg, SABMiller and United Breweries colluded to fix beer prices for 11 years.

The 248-page report, which was seen by Reuters, was written after an anti-trust investigation was launched in 2018.

While not a final judgement, the report details conversations in the form of WhatsApp messages and emails between top executives at Carlsberg, SABMiller (now owned by AB InBev) and India’s United Breweries, which share commercially sensitive information in order to fix the price of beer in certain Indian states.

Reuters said the report showed that the brewers used industry group the All India Brewers Association (AIBA) as a “common platform” to collectively determine beer prices. The local group in the state would then lobby for the agreed-on price increases.

The report also found that on at least three occasions, those involved had sent messages urging one another to keep their arrangements quiet.

Aside from stating that they were complying with the investigation, those involved have declined to comment on the proceedings

Around 19 brewery executives are believed to have been implicated, the report notes, while sources told Reuters that if guilt is proved, fines could exceed US$250 million. Evidence dates to between 2007 and October 2018.

A probe was triggered after AB InBev, which acquired SABMiller in 2016, told authorities in 2018 that it had found evidence of a price-fixing cartel following an internal investigation.

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