The Indian Competition Commission (CCI) has finalized first investigations and found evidence for price fixing by the largest brewing groups in India between 2007 and October 2018. According to a report by CNBC-TV18, top executives of Carlsberg, SAB Miller and Heineken will be summoned soon by the CCI. Fines could exceed USD 250 million.
After AB InBev bought SAB Miller in 2016, the company conducted internal investigations and found out that SAB Miller executives had discussed and agreed on beer prices with colleagues from other breweries in India for years. AB InBev informed the CCI about their findings and filed a leniency application. In October 2018, the CCI raided the Indian offices of AB InBev, Carlsberg and United Breweries (which is part owned by Heineken) and confiscated “hundreds of files” and more than 2 terabytes of data from laptops, pen drives and smartphones. (inside.beer, 12.10.2018)
The CCI found evidence that the group used the All India Brewers Association (AIBA) as a “common platform” to decide collectively on prices. During several conversations and meetings, as well as in emails and WhatsApp messages the companies regularly and collectively agreed on price increases in “several states”. They were also aware of their wrongdoing as can be seen by an e-mail by AIBA’s director general who wrote in 2016 to executives of the three companies that “we should avoid getting caught.”
19 people were involved in the collusion that “has been mostly through the highest level of management in these companies,” including managing directors, vice presidents, and sales and marketing heads.
In 2013, Shalabh Seth, chief supply chain officer at United Breweries who worked by that time as managing director of SABMiller, and the chief sales officer of UB, Kiran Kumar exchanged WhatsApp messages to plan a 60 rupee (USD 0.81) price increase per case of beer in a particular state.