EU fines beer giant Anheuser-Busch InBev €200M | News | DW | 13.05.2019
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EU fines beer giant Anheuser-Busch InBev €200M

Beer company Anheuser-Busch InBev has been fined for restricting cross-border sales between the Netherlands and Belgium, forcing Belgians to pay more for their beer. The company had been under investigation since 2016.

The world's largest beer company Anheuser-Busch InBev (AB InBev) must pay the European Union €200.4 million ($225 million) for breaching antitrust laws, the European Commission said in a statement on Monday.

The Commission said AB InBev, based in Leuven, Belgium, abused its dominant market position in Belgium by preventing cheaper imports of its own brands from neighboring countries.

The company had been under investigation by the commission since 2016 for suspected violations.

The probe concluded that AB InBev sells its popular beer brands Jupiler and Leffe at higher prices in Belgium than in France and the Netherlands, where the company has fiercer competition.

Jupiler is the most popular beer brand in Belgium, representing about 40% of the total Belgian beer market in terms of sales volume.

"Consumers in Belgium have been paying more for their favorite beer because of AB InBev's deliberate strategy to restrict cross-border sales between the Netherlands and Belgium," said EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager.

Read more: An early beer: Archaeologists tap ground at world's oldest brewery

Strategies used to undercut competitors

The firm used a number of methods to undercut its competitors, including changing the packaging of beer cans so that they did not include both French and Dutch.

That made the products harder to sell in Belgium, where core information on the product is required in both the country's official languages.

AB Inbev also limited the amount of Jupiler beer supplied to a wholesaler in the Netherlands, so as to restrict their ability to send some of it back into Belgium. The company also refused to sell other core products to one retailer in Belgium, unless that retailer agreed to limit its imports of less expensive Jupiler beer from the Netherlands to Belgium.

Read more: Beyond the Purity Law: Explore the diversity of German beer

The company also made customer promotions for beer offered to a retailer in the Netherlands conditional upon the retailer not offering the same deal to its customers in Belgium.

The commission reduced the fine by 15% on the understanding that AB InBev cooperated with investigators and agreed to publish the required food information in both French and Dutch on product packaging for the next five years in Belgium, France and the Netherlands.

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