Today, the Indian Competition Commission (CCI) has found Heineken-controlled United Breweries (UB) and Carlsberg India Private Ltd (CIPL) guilty for illegally price fixing and imposed severe penalties. While United Breweries has to pay INR 7.5 billion (USD 102 million), Carlsberg was in comparison moderately fined with only INR 1.2 billion (USD 17 million). AB InBev or its predecessor SAB Miller respectively was given a 100% exemption from penalties because they informed the antitrust watch dog about the case.
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 meanwhile majority 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) Finally, the cartel was found to have operated from 2009 to at least 10 October 2018, the date on which the Director General conducted search and seizure operations at the premises of the beer companies.
In addition to the two big fines, a much smaller fine of over INR 625,000 (USD 8.400) has been imposed on the All India Brewers Association (AIBA), which was apparently used 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. (inside.beer,10.12.2020)
Various of those individuals have now also been fined by the regulator. "4 individuals of UBL, 4 individuals of AB InBev, 6 individuals of CIPL and the Director General of AIBA, were held by CCI to be liable for the anti-competitive conduct of their respective companies/association,” an official release said.
CIPL Managing Director Nilesh Patel has been fined USD 23,684 and United Breweries chief of sales Kiran Kumar USD 6,497, among others.