Germans are known for their love of beer. And love is blind. So maybe supermarkets figured beer lovers would turn a blind eye when they colluded to fix beer prices. But luckily for them, the government stepped in to try to discourage the practice.
Germany’s Federal Cartel Office has imposed a fine of over $100 million against a group of retailers for colluding with Anheuser-Busch InBev to fix prices on a number of its beer brands between 2006 and 2009. The government office found that in exchange for special benefits like discounts and reimbursements, supermarkets including Edeka, Metro and Netto agreed to keep the price of three of AB InBev’s brands – Beck’s, Franziskaner and Hasseroder – at artificially high prices. The beer giant avoided any fine of its own by cooperating with the investigation.
“In the sale of its premium beer brands, the brewery concerned agreed with retailers on several occasions to raise shop prices and coordinated the details between them, in particular reference dates and the level of the respective price increase,” Andreas Mundt, president of the Cartel Office, was quoted as saying. “The retailers expected that the brewery would ensure that the price increase was simultaneously implemented by competing retailers. The ones suffering from such systematic price maintenance practices are the end consumers.”
Though beer is the latest product to make headlines, the cartel office has levied a total of over $275 million in fines based around price fixing on all sorts of products including coffee, candy and pet food since beginning its investigation back in 2010. I’m guessing this beer news hits especially hard, however: There’s no Oktoberfest for pet food.