Warsteiner shares €106m fine for German beer cartel, AB InBev escapes

Germany’s Federal Cartel Office is set to fine five of the nation's brewers including Warsteiner €106m for fixing beer prices from 2006-2008 but AB InBev has escaped punishment.

The five companies handed down fines, as part of the cartel between 2006-2008, are: Bitburger, Krombacher, Veltins, Warsteiner and Barre, Germany's Federal Cartel Office (FCO) said on 13 January. Seven un-named individuals also face action for being involved in the “illegal price fixing agreements”, the authority said.

Andreas Mundt, the FCO's president, said: "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”.

The fining decisions are not yet final and can be appealed against to the Düsseldorf Higher Regional Court, the FCO said.

The investigation was triggered by an “application for leniency” filed by Anheuser-Busch InBev's German unit, the FCO said. As a result, A-B InBev is not being fined. The FCO said that Bitburger, Krombacher, Veltins and Warsteiner also cooperated with the investigation, which was was “taken into account as mitigating factors” in calculating the fines.

Investigations are still on-going against two other brewery groups and four regional breweries in North Rhine-Westphalia, plus their regional association for their involvement in a regional price-fixing group, the cartel office said.