European Commission fines AB InBev €200m
Anheuser-Busch InBev, the world’s largest brewer, has been fined €200m for breaching European Union antitrust rules.
The European Commission ruled that the brewer had abused its dominant market position in the Belgian beer market by "hindering" cheaper imports of its Jupiler brand from the Netherlands.
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."
Jupiler represents around 40% of the total Belgium beer market in terms of sales volumes, giving AB InBev a dominant market position.
The EC noted that market dominance was not illegal. But it added: "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."
The EC said AB InBev had deliberately restricted the possibility for supermarkets and wholesalers to buy Jupiler at lower prices in Holland and then import it into Belgium. "The overall objective of this strategy was to maintain higher prices," the EC added.
AB InBev’s fine was reduced by 15% to €200m, however, because the company co-operated with the EC "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 see AB InBev provide mandatory food information in both French and Dutch on packaging.