Do Belgians pay too much for their own beer? The European Union thinks so: the EU wants to fine AB InBev for charging higher prices for Jupiler and Leffe in Belgium than in neighbouring countries.
Obstruction of import cheaper beer from abroad
The European Commission wants to impose a fine on AB Inbev because it prevented Belgian imports of cheaper Jupiler and Leffe from neighbouring countries France and the Netherlands, Reuters writes based on anonymous sources. Last year, the European Commission accused the world's largest brewer of abusing its dominant market position in Belgium: Jupiler and Leffe were more expensive than abroad and AB Inbev prevented the cheaper beer from being brought to the country.
According to the European competition watchdog, AB InBev changed the packaging of both Jupiler and Leffe for the Dutch and French markets, making it more difficult to sell them in Belgium. Dutch retailers (as in: Albert Heijn) also had limited access to top products and promotions, to prevent them from importing into Belgium.
Infringement on a single market
The European Commission generally rejects such blockades because it considers them to be an infringement of the single market. Parallel imports within the 28 countries of the EU must be possible according to the competition watchdog. AB InBev's actions resulted in Jupiler and Leffe, the two most popular beer brands in the country, being more expensive in Belgium. According to AB InBev, the price differences can be explained by the fact that competitors in the Netherlands and France are cheaper, causing them to lower their prices there.
The committee gives companies the opportunity to take their own measures and reach an amicable settlement before imposing fines, but in this case it still considers a fine. This can amount to 10 % of the worldwide turnover. However, according to Reuters' sources, a formal decision will most likely take some time.