Heineken Faces $30M Antitrust Fine in Greece

(CN) — Slapping Heineken with a $30 million fine for antitrust violations committed by one of the Dutch beer giant’s subsidiaries, a Greek court upheld a judgment Wednesday for an independent brewer.

The appeal sprang from a 2015 finding by the Hellenic Competition Commission that Heineken subsidiary Athenian Brewery engaged in anticompetitive behavior for nearly two decades in Greece.

Wednesday’s ruling by the Administrative Court of Appeal clocks in at 126 pages, but is available only in Greek.

Macedonian Thrace Brewery, a locally owned brewery that competes with Heineken, meanwhile described the court’s ruling as a “damning” decision that could pave the way for a judgment against Europe’s largest brewery worth more than $100 million.

Demetri Politopoulos, one of two brothers behind Macedonian beer, said that his company is pursuing that relief in the Heineken’s home turf: the Court of Amsterdam, commercial division.

“Heineken’s long-standing market manipulation must now give way to fair competition and Heineken must compensate those who have been materially damaged, including [Macedonian Thrace Brewery],”  Politopoulos said in a statement. “Greece will only succeed economically with a free and fair market that encourages investment and healthy competition.”

Founded in 1996, Macedonian says it got its start as a brewery in Greece at a time at a time when all of the competition was foreign-owned. It claims that Athenian Brewery, which sells Alfa, Amstel and Heineken in Greece, illegally crowded out competitors for 16 years on “all channels,” including wholesalers, hotels, bars, restaurants and retail outlets. 

Heineken spokesman John-Paul Schuirink said that the company is reviewing the decision and considering its next steps.

“It is correct that earlier this year Macedonian Thrace Brewery has initiated separate legal proceedings against Athenian Brewery and Heineken N.V. before the Amsterdam Court,” Schuirink said. “Pending these legal proceedings Heineken N.V. will refrain from providing any further comments regarding this matter.”

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