(BRUSSELS) – The EU Commission fined Anheuser-Busch InBev, the world’s biggest beer brewer, some EUR 200 million Monday for breaching EU antitrust rules through its actions in hampering cross-border sales of beer.
InBev’s most popular beer brand in Belgium is Jupiler. AB InBev also sells Jupiler beer in other EU Member States, including the Netherlands and France.
In the Netherlands, AB InBev sells Jupiler to retailers and wholesalers at lower prices than in Belgium due to increased competition.
The EU executive says AB InBev pursued a deliberate strategy to restrict the possibility for supermarkets and wholesalers to buy Jupiler beer at lower prices in the Netherlands and to import it into Belgium.
Margrethe Vestager, Commissioner in charge of competition policy, said: “Consumers in Belgium have been paying more for their favourite beer because of AB InBev’s deliberate strategy to restrict cross border sales between the Netherlands and Belgium. Attempts by dominant companies to carve up the Single Market to maintain high prices are illegal. Therefore we have fined AB InBev €200 million for breaching our antitrust rules.”
The overall objective of this strategy was to maintain higher prices in Belgium by limiting imports of less expensive Jupiler beer products from the Netherlands.
The Commission’s conclusion was that AB InBev abused its dominant position from 9 February 2009 until 31 October 2016 in breach of EU antitrust rules and deprived European consumers of one of the core benefits of the European Single Market, namely the possibility to have more choice and get a better deal when shopping.
As a result, the Commission has decided to impose a fine on AB InBev. It stresses that AB InBev cooperated with the Commission ‘beyond its legal obligation to do so’, in particular by expressly acknowledging the facts and the infringement of EU competition rules and by proposing a remedy.
The remedy will specifically ensure that the packaging of all existing and new products in Belgium, France and the Netherlands will include mandatory food information in both Dutch and French for the next five years.
The Commission granted AB InBev a 15% reduction in the fine in return for this cooperation.