The European Union has fined AB InBev €200.4 million for hindering cheaper imports of its Jupiler beer from the Netherlands into Belgium.
AB InBev, the world’s largest brewer, restricted the possibility for supermarkets and wholesalers to buy Jupiler beer at lower prices in the Netherlands and to import it into Belgium, the European Commission said.
Belgium-headquartered AB InBev removed the French version of mandatory information from the labelling and changed the design and size of beer cans to make it harder to sell to Belgian consumers.
The commission concluded that the company abused its dominant position from February 2009 until October 2016 in breach of EU antitrust rules. In 2017, the commission initially alleged that AB InBev engaged in restrictive practices.
Margrethe Vestager, EU Competition Commissioner, 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.”
According to the commission, Jupiler is its most popular brand in Belgium and represents around 40% of the total Belgian beer sold domestically by volume.
The decision concluded that AB InBev is dominant on the Belgian beer market. The commission said that market dominance is, as such, not illegal under EU antitrust rules. However, dominant companies “have a special responsibility not to abuse their market power by restricting competition, either in the market where they are dominant or in separate markets”.
AB InBev was said to cooperate beyond its legal obligation to do so, in particular by acknowledging the infringement of competition rules and by proposing a remedy. The company was granted a 15% fine reduction in return for its cooperation.
The firm will now provide mandatory food information in both French and Dutch on products for sale in Belgium, France and the Netherlands for the next five years.
© FoodBev Media Ltd 2019