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Home | News | International | EC alleges ABI market abuse

EC alleges ABI market abuse

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The EC Statement of OBjections visually represented

Says cross-border imports of beer into Belgium hindered

The European Commission is taking to task Anheuser-Busch InBev over what it describes as abuse of a dominant position in the Belgian beer market.

In a Statement of Objections sent to ABI at the end of November, the EC notes that its most popular brands in the Belgian market are Jupiler and Leffe. These brands are also sold in neighbouring countries France and the Netherlands, at lower prices than in Belgium due to the increased competition that it faces in those markets.

The EC alleges that ABI is abusing a dominant market position in Belgium by adopting a strategy of preventing Belgian supermarkets and wholesalers from buying Jupiler and Leffe at lower prices in France and the Netherlands and then importing them into Belgium.

While specific examples of how ABI acts to prevent these cross-border sales from taking place were a bit thin, the EC did say that ABI had removed French text from its cans in the Netherlands and Dutch text from its cans in France to prevent their sale in the French and Dutch speaking parts of Belgium, respectively.

Margrethe Vestager, EC commissioner in charge of competition policy says that Belgian consumers may have had to pay more for their 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. ABI now has the opportunity to respond to our concerns.”

In response an AB InBev spokesman said that it would not be appropriate to comment regarding the EC’s Statement of Objections, save to note that it is a procedural step, not a final decision on outcome of the case. Further, the company has been working constructively with the EC since the investigation was first announced in June 2016.

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

The EC opened formal antitrust proceedings in June 2016 into ABI’s practices in the Belgian beer market. There is no legal deadline for the completion of antitrust inquiries into anticompetitive practices.

 

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