EU fines AB InBev for overcharging Belgians for beer

Brussels (AFP) –


The European Union on Monday slapped a fine of 200 million euros on AB InBev, the world's biggest brewer, for hindering cheaper beer imports into Belgium from the neighbouring Netherlands.

In the Netherlands, AB InBev sells Jupiler, the most popular beer in Belgium, to supermarkets and wholesalers at lower prices than in Belgium, because of stiffer competition.

"Consumers in Belgium have been paying more for their favourite beer because of AB InBev's deliberate strategy to restrict cross-border sales," EU competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager said.

"Attempts by dominant companies to carve up the single market to maintain high prices are illegal," Vestager said in a statement.

"Therefore we have fined AB InBev 200 million euros ($225 million) for breaching our antitrust rules," the Dane added.

The European Commission, the 28-nation EU's executive arm, said AB InBev for several years used various tactics to prevent Belgian supermarkets and wholesalers from importing cheaper Jupiler beer from the Netherlands.

It said the Belgian-Brazilian beer behemoth changed the packaging of some of its Jupiler beer products supplied to retailers and wholesalers in the Netherlands so that they would be harder to sell in Belgium.

For example, it changed the design and size of beer cans and removed the French version of mandatory information from the label.

AB InBev, it said, also curbed the volumes of Jupiler beer shipped to a wholesaler in the Netherlands to make it harder for Belgium to import these products.

The brewer, it added, refused to sell products to one Belgian retailer unless the retailer agreed to limit its imports of cheaper Jupiler from the Netherlands.

"The Commission concluded that AB InBev abused its dominant position from 9 February 2009 until 31 October 2016 in breach of EU antitrust rules," the European Commission said.

"It deprived European consumers of one of the core benefits of the European Single Market, namely the possibility to have more choice and get a better deal when shopping," it said.

The fines are paid into the general EU budget, allowing member countries to reduce their spending contributions accordingly for the following year.