A three-year investigation looking at a possible market-dominating position of major breweries in Australia like Carlton United Breweries and Lion was denied by The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).
The ACCC investigated 36 tap contracts across New South Wales and Victoria but found that these volume and exclusivity contracts, while in place, were unlikely to substantially lessen competition.
The complaints from craft brewers stemmed from some of Lion and CUB’s contracts requiring venues to dedicate over 80 per cent of beer taps to their big name brands in exchange for rebates, infrastructure investment and refurbishment loans.
“Although some venues had exclusivity arrangements, most pubs and clubs said they did not feel constrained from allocating taps to smaller brewers and could make taps available for craft beer if necessary,” ACCC Deputy Chairman Dr Michael Schaper said.
“While some craft brewers may have been refused access to taps by certain venues, our investigation found that the venues were responding to consumer demand for certain beer brands, rather than restrictions imposed by the big brewers,” Dr Schaper said.
“In fact, over half of the venues contacted by the ACCC indicated that customer preference was the key factor in determining the brands, types of beer and number of craft beers offered by the venue.”
The Independent Brewers Association (IBA) was disappointed by ACCC’s decision and described it as a “body blow” for craft brewers. “For any small business to survive it needs protection from the market practices of dominant players. We had hoped that Australian consumer law, as interpreted by the ACCC, would be able to provide that protection,” said Ben Kooyman, chairman of the IBA.