Resale price maintenance in food retail sector - Fine proceedings largely concluded in beer segment too
In its vertical case in the food retail sector the Bundeskartellamt has concluded further cartel proceedings and imposed new fines on retailers totalling 90.5 million euros. This time the investigations focussed on agreements between the brewery Anheuser Busch InBev Germany Holding GmbH, Bremen (AB InBev) and retailers on shop prices for beer, in particular the brands "Beck’s", "Franziskaner" and "Hasseröder".
Fines were imposed on the following companies: A. Kempf Getränkegroßhandel GmbH, Offenburg, EDEKA Handelsgesellschaft Minden-Hannover mbH, Minden, EDEKA Handelsgesellschaft Rhein-Ruhr mbH, Moers, EDEKA Handelsgesellschaft Südbayern mbH, Gaimersheim, EDEKA Handelsgesellschaft Südwest mbH, Offenburg, EDEKA Nordbayern-Sachsen-Thüringen GmbH, Rottendorf, METRO AG, Düsseldorf, and NETTO Marken-Discount AG & Co. KG, Maxhütte. No fines were imposed on AB InBev and the retailer REWE Zentral – Aktiengesellschaft, Cologne, due to their early and extensive cooperation with the Bundeskartellamt in its investigations.
A fine was also imposed in the confectionery product category on Lidl Stiftung & Co. KG for applying resale price maintenance in its sale of Haribo products and in the coffee product category on Dirk Rossmann GmbH for applying resale price maintenance in its sale of Melitta products (for more information on the agreements in these product categories see also press release of 18.06.2015).
The series of proceedings, which began with dawn raids in January 2010 and was one of the Bundeskartellamt's most time-consuming fine proceedings, has thus almost reached its conclusion. In the proceedings the Bundeskartellamt imposed fines amounting to a good 242 million euros on account of illegal agreements between manufacturers and retailers on shop prices in the product categories confectionery, coffee, pet food, beer and body care products. The proceeding against three companies in the product categories confectionery and beer is still pending and is expected to be concluded within the next few months.
Andreas Mundt, President of the Bundeskartellamt:
"In the sale of its premium beer brands the brewery concerned agreed with retailers on several occasions to raise shop prices and coordinated the details between them, in particular reference dates and the level of the respective price increase. The retailers expected that the brewery would ensure that the price increase was simultaneously implemented by competing retailers. The ones suffering from such systematic price maintenance practices are the end consumers."
A mitigating factor in the calculation of the fines was that with the exception of Rossmann's fine settlement agreements could be reached with the companies. Rossmann has appealed against its fine to the Düsseldorf Higher Regional Court. In the other cases where the fine decisions are not yet final, these can also be appealed.
Further information on the proceedings against AB InBev can be found in a case summary, (available only in German) on the Bundeskartellamt's website.