Short Reads

Cheaper beer ahead? AB InBev fined for cross-border sales restrictions

Cheaper beer ahead? AB InBev fined for cross-border sales restrictions

Cheaper beer ahead? AB InBev fined for cross-border sales restrictions

06.06.2019 NL law

Dominant companies beware of hindering cross-border sales between resellers through, for instance, labelling or packaging measures to make your products less attractive for import.

The European Commission recently imposed a EUR 200 million fine on AB InBev, the world's largest beer company, for abusing its dominant position in the Belgian beer market by hindering cheaper imports of Jupiler, the company's most popular beer brand, from the Netherlands into Belgium. The fine may result in more cross-border sales, as multinational retailers in particular may take it as a cue to begin sourcing more products from the cheapest EU Member States.

According to the Commission's press release, (the Commission decision is not public yet), AB InBev is dominant in the Belgian beer market due to the company's consistently high market share and ability to increase prices independently from other beer manufacturers, the existence of barriers to significant entry and expansion, and the limited countervailing buyer power of retailers as a result of the essential nature of certain beer brands sold by AB InBev.

AB InBev abused its dominant position by restricting the possibility for supermarkets and wholesalers to buy cheaper Jupiler beer in the Netherlands and subsequently import it into Belgium. The overall objective of this strategy was to maintain higher prices in Belgium by limiting imports of less expensive Jupiler beer products from the Netherlands.

According to the Commission, AB InBev achieved this by:

  1. changing the packaging of some of its Jupiler beer products supplied to Dutch retailers and wholesalers to make it harder for them to sell in Belgium, particularly by removing the French version of mandatory information from the label, as well as changing the design and size of beer cans.
  2. limiting the volumes of Jupiler beer supplied to a Dutch wholesaler to restrict imports of these products into Belgium.
  3. refusing to sell these products to one retailer unless the retailer agreed to limit its imports of less expensive Jupiler beer from the Netherlands to Belgium.
  4. making customer promotions for beer offered to Dutch retailers conditional upon the retailer not offering the same promotions to its Belgian customers.

Since AB InBev cooperated beyond its legal obligation to do so (including proposing a remedy), the Commission granted a 15% reduction under its non-cartel cooperation procedure. The remedy will ensure that the packaging of all existing and new products in Belgium, France and the Netherlands will include mandatory food information in both Dutch and French for the coming 5 years.

In light of this decision, dominant companies should review their conduct towards resellers, including the imposition of labelling or packaging measures, to assess whether cross-border sales may be restricted. In addition, they should be aware of a likely increase in cross-border sales, since multinational retailers may take the fine as a cue to source more products from the cheapest EU Member States.

 

This article was published in the Competition Law Newsletter of June 2019. Other articles in this newsletter:

 

 

Team

Related news

07.02.2020 BE law
Het finale Belgische ‘nationaal energie- en klimaatplan’ en de Belgische langetermijnstrategie: het geduld van de Commissie op de proef gesteld?

Articles - Op 31 december 2019 diende België, nog net op tijd, zijn definitieve nationaal energie- en klimaatplan (NEKP) in bij de Commissie. Het staat nu al vast dat het Belgische NEKP niet op applaus zal worden onthaald door de Commissie. Verder laat ook de Belgische langetermijnstrategie op zich wachten. Wat zijn de gevolgen?

Read more

06.02.2020 NL law
CDC/Kemira: Amsterdam Court of Appeal applies European principle of effectiveness to limitation periods

Short Reads - In a private enforcement case brought by CDC against Kemira, the Amsterdam Court of Appeal applies the European principle of effectiveness and rules that claims are not time-barred under Spanish, Finnish and Swedish law. With reference to the Cogeco judgment of the ECJ, the Court considers that claimants must be able to await the outcome of any administrative appeal against an infringement decision, even in relation to respondents who themselves have not filed appeals against the infringement decision.

Read more

06.02.2020 NL law
Pay-for-delay: brightened lines between object and effect restrictions

Short Reads - In its first pay-for-delay case, the ECJ has clarified the criteria determining whether settlement agreements between a patent holder of a pharmaceutical product and a generic manufacturer may have as their object or effect to restrict EU competition law. The judgment confirms the General Court’s earlier rulings in Lundbeck and Servier (see our October 2016 and December 2018 newsletters) in which it was held that pay-for-delay agreements (in these cases) constituted a restriction ‘by object’.

Read more

06.02.2020 NL law
Consumers and Sustainability: 2020 competition enforcement buzzwords

Short Reads - The ACM will include the effects of mergers on labour conditions in its review. It will also investigate excessive pricing of prescription drugs. As well as these topics, the ACM has designated the digital economy and energy transition as its 2020 focus areas. Companies can therefore expect increased enforcement to protect online consumers, and active probing of algorithms.

Read more

06.02.2020 NL law
The ACM may cast the net wide in cartel investigations

Short Reads - Companies beware: the ACM may not need to specify the scope of its investigation into suspected cartel infringements in as much detail as expected. On 14 January 2020, the Dutch Trade and Industry Appeals Tribunal upheld the ACM’s appeal against judgments of the Rotterdam District Court, which had quashed cartel fines imposed on cold storage operators. The operators had argued that the ACM was time-barred from pursuing a case against them, because the ACM had not suspended the prescription period by beginning investigative actions specifically related to the alleged infringements.

Read more

06.02.2020 NL law
Den Bosch Court of Appeal revives damages claims in Dutch prestressing steel litigation

Short Reads - On 28 January 2020, the Court of Appeal of Den Bosch issued a ruling in the Dutch prestressing steel litigation. In its ruling, the Court of Appeal overturned a 2016 judgment of the District Court of Limburg, in which it was held that civil damages claims brought by Deutsche Bahn were time-barred under German law (see our January 2017 newsletter).

Read more

This website uses cookies. Some of these cookies are essential for the technical functioning of our website and you cannot disable these cookies if you want to read our website. We also use functional cookies to ensure the website functions properly and analytical cookies to personalise content and to analyse our traffic. You can either accept or refuse these functional and analytical cookies.

Privacy – en cookieverklaring