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Home | News | International | Court upholds Athenian ruling

Court upholds Athenian ruling

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Athenian Brewery: now reviewing Appeals Court decision

Heineken unit found to have abused market dominance

A Greek appeals court has upheld the country’s competition commission’s decision that market leader Athenian Brewery engaged in anti-competitive practices over a 15-year period.

The Administrative Appeals Court in Athens upheld the substance of a 2015 ruling by the Hellenic Competition Commission, agreeing that Athenian violated Article 2 of the country’s Competition Act and Article 102 of the EU Treaty, which aims at preventing abuse of dominant market positions.

The Appeals Court did reduce the original HCC fine of €31.4 million to €26.7 million. The investigation was initiated by the HCC and later joined by a compliant from Carlsberg’s Greek unit Mythos Brewery (today Olympic Brewery).

The original HCC ruling, issued in December 2015 after a lengthy, more than decade-long investigation, found that Athenian had adopted and implemented a targeted policy to exclude from and limit the growth of competitors in the Greek on-trade.

Specially, the HCC found that Athenian made to retailers and bar owners ‘significant payments conditional upon exclusivity.’ Furthermore, it also engaged in restrictive practices at the wholesale level, providing them with ‘significant economic motives’ to promote exclusivity and exercising pressure on them to not trade in or introduce competing products.

The ruling was welcomed by Demetri Politopoulos, who with his brother Michael founded in 1996 Macedonian Thrace Brewery (MTB), a craft brewer located in Komotini, Greece. The brewer has launched legal action in the Netherlands, seeking damages in excess of €100 million from Athenian and parent company Heineken.

Politopoulos commented, “Heineken’s long-standing market manipulation must now give way to fair competition and Heineken must compensate those who have been materially damaged, including MTB. Greece will only succeed economically with a free and fair market that encourages investment and healthy competition.”

For its part, Heineken issued a statement saying that it was aware of the decision of the Administrative Court of Appeal, and that Athenian Brewery is currently reviewing the decision and considering its next steps.

Heineken also acknowledged Macedonian Thrace’s court filing in the Netherlands but refrained from further comment given pending legal proceedings.

 

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