Remember that the battle with Big Beer is a global skirmish. Today, we turn again to Macedonian Thrace Brewery (MTB) and its fight against Heineken. The Greek brewer welcomed a favorable appeals court judgment against Heineken’s 98.8 percent-owned Greek operating company, saying this clearly supports its claim for damages of €100 million-plus against Europe’s largest brewer.
The Administrative Appeals Court, in Athens, has upheld the substance of a 2015 landmark antitrust finding by the Hellenic Competition Commission (HCC) against Heineken’s subsidiary Athenian Brewery for nearly two decades of illegal anti-competitive market abuse in Greece. Following a 12-year-long HCC investigation, the longest in its history, Athenian Brewery was found to have systematically abused its dominant market position in violation of Greek and EU competition law.
The Appeals Court upheld the substance of the HCC’s decision and after a technical adjustment to the original HCC fine, confirmed a record €26.7 million fine on Heineken’s operating company in Greece.
The HCC found overwhelming evidence that Athenian Brewery, which sells Alfa, Amstel and Heineken in Greece, implemented a targeted policy to exclude competitors from all channels — wholesalers, on-trade (e.g. HORECA — hotels, bars and restaurants) and off-trade retail outlets.
In February MTB launched a damages claim against Heineken and Athenian Brewery in the Court of Amsterdam, commercial division.
“The Competition authority and now the appeals court has reaffirmed the full extent and intensity of Heineken’s breaches of antitrust regulations in Greece,” said Demetri Politopoulos, one of MTB’s founders. “Due process has triumphed despite Heineken’s disingenuous refusal to accept responsibility and their unrelenting efforts to overturn a sound decision.
“Heineken’s long-standing market manipulation must now give way to fair competition, and Heineken must compensate those who have been materially damaged, including MTB. Greece will only succeed economically with a free and fair market that encourages investment and healthy competition. This kind of market abuse has no place in our country. We believe that ultimate responsibility for years of market abuses lies at Heineken’s head office in Amsterdam which is why we have sued both Heineken and Athenian Brewery in the Netherlands, to finally get to the root of this problem.”