Heineken Distills Fine|for Role in Beer Cartel

     (CN) – A European Union court cut Heineken some slack in reducing a fine for controlling the beer market in Holland.

     The European Commission, which acts as the union’s executive body, fined Heineken, its subsidiaries and several other beer producers for participating in a beer cartel within the Netherlands.
     Heineken and its subsidiaries were fined around $314 million for coordinating prices and allocation of beer from 1996 to 1999. The violations allegedly occurred within “on-trade” – referring to direct consumption in restaurants and bars – and “off-trade,” or supermarkets and other stores, sectors.
     In response to a request by brewers to annul the fines, the General Court of the European Union shaved 10 percent off for Heineken.
     The Luxembourg-based court said insufficient evidence existed that Heineken had attempted to control commercial conditions aside from prices. The commission apparently relied on handwritten notes, which the court said made only “sporadic and brief” references to other market controls – not enough to prove a violation.
     Heineken’s fine was reduced to about $284 million. Dutch brewer Bavarian saw a similarly scaled reduction, to about $30 million. The Grolsch group was also among those fined by the commission. Multinational beer company InBev, which owns Anheuser-Busch, was granted immunity because it supplied information for the investigation.
     The fine changes may still be appealed.

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