The European Commission on Thursday (30 November) accused the world’s biggest brewer AB InBev of illegally blocking cheaper imports of local favourites Leffe and Jupiler into Belgium.
Both brands are Belgium’s best sold beers and part of the AB InBev behemoth that the EU says has a “very strong” position on the Belgian beer market.
“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,” said Margrethe Vestager, EU competition commissioner said in a statement.
Belgian consumers may have paid more for their favourite beers. @abinbev seems to have prevented cheaper beer imports out of FR + the NL from reaching consumers in Belgium. We have sent @abinbev statement of objections. https://t.co/6ByY9mz9Ux
— Margrethe Vestager (@vestager) November 30, 2017
According to an investigation, AB InBev removed French-language text from Jupiler or Leffe beer cans in the Netherlands, making them illegal to sell in French-speaking parts of Belgium.
Trouble brewing: AB InBev accused of keeping cheap beer from Belgians https://t.co/22clipUBIl
— Cheaper Accountant (@cheaperaccts) December 1, 2017
AB InBev did the same with Dutch text to block French-made cans selling in the Dutch-speaking area of Belgium.
AB InBev also limited access of Dutch supermarkets to key promotions in order to prevent them from bringing cheaper beer products to Belgium.
“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,” the EU said.
A statement of objections is a preliminary view and does not prejudge the outcome of the investigation, the EU added.
Global group AB Inbev is based in the Belgian city of Leuven and completed a blockbuster merger worth $103 billion (€92 billion) with rival SAB Miller last year.