First fines imposed in cartel proceedings against breweries
The Bundeskartellamt has imposed fines totalling 106.5 million euros on the companies Bitburger Braugruppe GmbH (Bitburger), Krombacher Brauerei Bernhard Schadeberg GmbH & Co. KG (Krombacher), C. & A. Veltins GmbH & Co. KG (Veltins), Warsteiner Brauerei Haus Cramer KG (Warsteiner) and Privat-Brauerei Ernst Barre GmbH (Barre) as well as seven individuals personally involved on account of illegal price fixing agreements for beer.
The proceedings were triggered by an application for leniency filed by Anheuser-Busch InBev Germany Holding GmbH (AB InBev), on which no fine will be imposed in accordance with the Bundeskartellamt's leniency programme. Investigations are still ongoing against two further brewery groups. The same applies to four regional breweries in North Rhine-Westphalia and their regional association for their involvement in a regional price-fixing group.
Andreas Mundt, President of the Bundeskartellamt:
"As a result of our investigations we were able to prove the existence of price-fixing agreements between breweries; most of which were based purely on personal and telephone contacts. The price increases of five to seven euros per hectolitre for draught beer in 2006 and 2008 were agreed on this basis. In 2008 a price increase was agreed for bottled beer with the intention of making the 20 bottle crates one euro more expensive”.
In joint meetings and bilateral contacts the national breweries were the first to agree price increases and their order of magnitude for their draught and/or bottled beers. Subsequently, at meetings of the North Rhine-Westphalian regional brewery association in June 2006 and September 2007 several of the nationally active breweries (AB InBev, Veltins and Warsteiner) agreed these price increases with breweries active in North Rhine-Westphalia (including Barre).
In the course of the proceedings not only AB InBev but also Bitburger, Krombacher, Veltins and Warsteiner cooperated with the Bundeskartellamt in compliance with the authority's leniency programme. In addition, the Bundeskartellamt was able to reach a settlement with all five breweries fined in order to terminate the proceedings. The breweries' cooperation in the proceedings as well as the settlement reached were taken into account as mitigating factors in the calculation of the fines.
The fining decisions are not yet final and can be appealed against to the Düsseldorf Higher Regional Court.