German shops fined for beer price-fixing

Bottle of Becks beer

The German Cartel Office has fined several supermarket chains €90.5m (£71m) for fixing the price of some beers, sweets and coffee.

Retailers Edeka, Metro and Netto were fined for fixing the price of Beck's and other beers owned by brewing giant AB InBev.

Lidl was fined for the price-fixing of Haribo confectionery.

The cartel office said its six-year investigation into pricing agreements was now nearly complete.

It began in January 2010, when the office carried out dawn raids to gather information about illegal agreements between retailers and manufacturers.

So far, it has imposed fines totalling €242m over price-fixing involving confectionery, coffee, pet food, beer and body care products.

Extensive cooperation

The Cartel Office said the brewer AB InBev, whose brands Beck's, Franziskaner and Hasseroeder were under particular investigation, and the retailer REWE Zentral escaped fines because they co-operated from early on in the investigation.

Andreas Mundt, president of the Cartel Office, said: "In the sale of its premium beer brands, the brewery concerned agreed with retailers on several occasions to raise shop prices and co-ordinated 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."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption German-owned Metro was one of three supermarket groups fined for the beer price-fixing

In a statement Metro said the "irregularities" had taken place at one of its procurement arms which has since been closed.

"We expressly regret these irregularities which date back quite some time. Such behaviour is not in line with the way we want to understand and operate our business," said a spokesperson.

Metro added that it made sure the failings were "eliminated long before the beginning of the investigations".

A fine was also imposed on German drugstore chain Rossmann for fixing the price of Melitta coffee products.

In its statement, the Cartel Office said a mitigating factor in the calculation of the fines had been the fact that, with the exception of Rossmann, settlements were reached with the retailers.

Rossmann appealed against its fine earlier this year.

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