19 April 2007 | Antony Barton
The European Commission has fined Dutch brewers Heineken, Grolsch and Bavaria a total of over ?273 million (£186 million) for running a beer cartel in The Netherlands.
The commission named the three brewers together with InBev, which also participated in the cartel. No fines were imposed on InBev because it provided information about the cartel under the commission's leniency programme.
Between 1996 and 1999, the four brewers held a series of unofficial meetings, in which they co-ordinated prices and price increases of beer in The Netherlands. Evidence uncovered during the inspections included handwritten notes taken at the meetings.
Competition commissioner Neelie Kroes said the practices were a serious infringement of the EU's anti-trust rules. "It is simply unacceptable that the major beer suppliers colluded to hike up prices and to carve up the market between themselves… the management of these companies at the very highest levels participated in this cartel activity, despite knowing that this behaviour was illegal," she said.