EU fines AB InBev €200m for antitrust breach

Brewer admits infringing competition rules.

The European Commission has fined AB InBev €200m for abusing its dominant market position in Belgium. The investigation began in June 2016 when it was discovered that the company had changed the text on Jupiler beer sold in the Netherlands and France, where it’s sold relatively cheaply, to Dutch or French alone. This restricted the extent to which those beers could be imported to bilingual Belgium where competition is less intense and prices are higher.

The company also placed limits on the quantity of beer it sold to Dutch distributors, and put pressure on Belgian distributors, all to ensure low-price Jupiler was not crossing the border from the Netherlands into Belgium. In the eyes of the EU, this is a fundamental breach of the right of consumers to shop around for the best value amongst member states.

For its part, AB InBev has cooperated fully with the investigation and has agreed to restore multilingual packaging for Jupiler.

Jupiler makes up 40% of the total beer market in Belgium. This case clearly shows the importance of monitoring the behaviour of multinational brewers in the arena of pricing and distribution. In its press release on the case, the European Commission draws the public’s attention to its whistleblower tool for reporting such instances for investigation.