Belgium: AB InBev Accused of Anti-Competitive Practices

AB InBev's vertical agreements are under investigation in Belgium following a complaint by independent drinks distributors alleging abuse of dominance. The Federation of Belgian Drinks Traders (FeBeD), which represents independent drinks traders nationwide, filed the complaint with the Belgian Competition Authority (BCA), accusing AB InBev of anti-competitive behavior. More than 130 traders have expressed their disagreement with AB InBev's new discount scheme.

FeBeD director Guy Dewulf informed local business news site De Tijd that AB InBev is accused of violating both Belgian and European competition rules. He stated, "The company abuses its dominant position to expand its own distribution in Belgium and to grow its brands to the detriment of other parties. The consumer is the victim of this." Dewulf also claimed that AB InBev uses margin erosion and larger discounts within the catering sector to force other retailers to decrease their margins and "push competition out of the market."

Furthermore, Dewulf believes the company has side agreements with operators, such as installing cooling installations, where the main contract might involve renting catering premises. These side contracts allegedly compel operators to purchase all drinks from AB InBev, which Dewulf argues is completely contrary to EU rules.

When asked by Just Drinks, AB InBev defended its buying agreements as "the most liberal beverage purchasing contracts with the catering industry in Belgium," asserting that the current discount system builds on the previous scheme, which was evaluated by the Belgian Competition Authority, and is in line with competition law regulations.

This is not the first time AB InBev has faced accusations of anti-competitive behavior in Belgium. In 2019, the company was fined €200.4 million (USD 215.8 million) by the European Commission for restricting imports of its Jupiler beer from the Netherlands into Belgium (, 13.5.2019). So far, the current investigation by the Belgian Competition Authority remains preliminary.

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