India Watchdog Fines United Breweries, Carlsberg In Price Fixing Case

India’s antitrust watchdog on Friday, September 24, imposed a penalty of US$102 million on Heineken-controlled beer giant United Breweries and US$16 million on the local unit of Denmark’s Carlsberg  in a case related to cartelisation of beer prices in the country.

The order comes after a long-drawn investigation that in 2018 saw Competition Commission of India (CCI) raiding the offices of the brewers. The raids happened after rival Anheuser Busch InBev told the watchdog it had detected an industry cartel in India after it acquired operations of SABMiller Plc.

A detailed CCI investigation, reported by Reuters last year, found that the companies collectively strategize in seeking price increases in several states, forging a cartel.

In a final order published Friday, the CCI announced penalties of 7.5 billion rupees on United Breweries and 1.2 billion rupees on Carlsberg, after the amounts were lowered as the companies cooperated with the investigators.

AB InBev was given a 100% exemption from penalties in the case as it alerted the CCI about the cartel, the order added.

The order passed by CCI imposed a penalty of US$23,684 on Carlsberg India Managing Director Nilesh Patel and US$6,497 on United Breweries chief of sales Kiran Kumar, among others.

Heineken stated United Breweries has recently become part of Heineken, which itself was not part of the CCI investigation. “We are currently reviewing the (CCI) decision and will consider our next steps, including the possibility of lodging an appeal,” Heineken stated.

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