The European Commission (EC) has accused AB InBev of preventing cheaper imports of its Leffe and Jupiler beers into Belgium.
AB InBev, the world’s largest brewer, is accused of abusing its dominant position in the Belgian beer market by hindering cheaper imports of beers from the Netherlands and France.
The EC said its investigation has shown that in the Netherlands and France the brewery sells Jupiler and Leffe at lower prices than in Belgium due to the increased competition it faces there.
With its dominant position in the Belgian beer market, the commission alleges that AB InBev has pursued a deliberate strategy to prevent supermarkets and wholesalers from buying Jupiler and Leffe at lower prices in the Netherlands and France, and from importing them into Belgium.
The EC is concerned with AB InBev’s practice of changing packaging of Jupiter and Leffe beer cans in the Netherlands and France to make it harder to sell them in Belgium, a policy ‘which has been in place since at least 2009’.
The company is also said to have limited the access of Dutch retailers to key promotions and products, in order to prevent them from bringing less expensive beer products to Belgium.
Commissioner in charge of competition policy Margrethe Vestager said: “Belgian consumers may have had to pay more for their favourite 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. AB InBev now has the opportunity to respond to our concerns.”
Antitrust proceedings were opened into AB InBev’s practices in June 2016. There is no legal deadline for the commission to complete its enquiries. The brewer now has a chance to respond to the charges.
© FoodBev Media Ltd 2020
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