Starting on June 13, the Regional Appeal Court of Düsseldorf, Germany, is now dealing with the so-called German beer cartel case, which has been scheduled for twenty days of trial. The main accused are the German subsidiary of the Danish Carlsberg Group and the leading German brewing group Radeberger, which is part of privately owned food company Dr. Oetker.
German Federal Cartel Office imposed in 2014 fines totaling €338 million ($411 million at today’s exchange rate) after a voluntary declaration of AB InBev Germany concerning a participation in illegal price agreements in 2007. The allegations affected in total 11 companies, one association (Brewery Association NRW) and 14 private individuals, which predominantly accepted and paid their fines. Only three smaller breweries from the Cologne region as well as the two major brewing groups Carlsberg Germany and Radeberger Group did not accept their fines of €62 million and €160 respectively.
"The industry's turnover is well over seven billion euros per year, and in view of these revenues, the high fines are appropriate and necessary to achieve effective punishment," Andreas Mundt, President of the German Federal Cartel Office, said more than four years ago.
In February German Manager Magazin cited people close to the matter that Radeberger could finally accept the fine to spare stressful court proceedings (inside.beer, 19.2.2018), but this proved to be wrong.
Now Radeberger’s former CEO Albert Christmann, who moved up to the position as CEO of the whole Oetker Group at the end of last year, is facing the trial together with Carlsberg Germany and its former CEO Wolfgang Burghard. At the end this could prove to be even more costly for the companies and their bosses, who face individual claims as well.
The court proceedings against the smaller breweries, namely Erzquell Brauerei Bielstein, Privat-Brauerei Bolten, Cölner Hofbräu and P. Josef Früh, which did not accept fines totaling €7 million, will be handled separately. The companies claim that they did not attend one of the two relevant meetings were they allegedly talked about an increase in beer prices.