European Commission Issues ‘Statement Of Objections’ To AB InBev Over Import Policies
The European Commission has issued a ‘statement of objections’ to beer producer AB InBev for allegedly preventing imports of beer into Belgium.
The Commission alleges that the drinks company ‘abused its dominant position on the Belgian beer market, by hindering cheaper imports of its Jupiler and Leffe beers from the Netherlands and France into Belgium’, a move that was not in keeping with the EU competition rules.
"Belgian consumers may have had to pay more for their favourite beers,” said Margrethe Vestager, Commissioner in charge of competition policy. “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."
It is claimed that AB InBev has pursued a ‘deliberate strategy’ to prevent Belgian supermarkets and wholelsahers from buying Jupiler and Leffe at lower prices in neighbouring France and the Netherlands, for import into Belgium.
The Commission also alleges that AB InBev changed the packaging of Jupiler and Leffe beer cans in the Netherlands and France ‘to make it harder to sell them in Belgium’, removing certain languages from the products.
‘The Commission's preliminary view is that these practices have created anti-competitive obstacles to trade and partitioned the EU's Single Market along national borders,’ it said. ‘If confirmed, this would infringe Article 102 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) that prohibits the abuse of a dominant market position.’
Commenting on the news, Christian Verschueren, EuroCommerce Director-General, said, “We are particularly pleased to see the Commission taking action against territorial supply restrictions. Retailers are not able to freely source the same products across borders, and thus unable to fully exercise their rights under the Single Market. In turn, this means consumers suffer from higher prices and less choice.
“This is important in a digital market where consumers can buy cross-border, but shop-based retailers cannot. This distorts competition and prevents retailers from offering their customers the best service".
© 2017 European Supermarket Magazine – your source for the latest retail news. Article by Stephen Wynne-Jones. Click subscribe to sign up to ESM: The European Supermarket Magazine