India’s largest breweries have been fined by the country’s competition regulator for “indulging into cartelisation”.
According to the Competition Commission of India (CCI), three breweries – United Breweries (UBL), Anheuser Busch InBev India (AB InBev) and Carlsberg India – engaged in a range of cartel behaviour between 2009 to 2018.
The ‘big beer cartel’ involved a wide range of anti-competitive behaviour: price coordination, restriction beer supply, co-operation around premium venues and even the selling of second-hand bottles.
The activity was also widely spread geographically, arguably another factor behind the newsworthiness of the decision and also the depth of collusion between major Indian breweries.
Cartel engaged in price fixing
The CCI highlighted that the cartel engaged in price-fixing in Maharashtra (India’s second most populous state), Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Odisha, Rajasthan, West Bengal, Delhi and Puducherry.
On the actual punishments for their violations of competition law, UBL and Carlsberg have been fined approximately ₹750 crore INR ($100,872,900 USD) and ₹120 crore INR ($16,139,664 USD) respectively. Individuals from these firms involved in the cartel activities were also fined.
AB InBev was able to dodge a fine, as it is had initially alerted the CCI to potential violations in 2020 after their acquisition of SAB Miller and had fulfilled requirements under Indian competition law for lesser penalties through co-operation with the authorities.
The country’s beer industry association, All India Brewers’ Association, was also used as “a platform for facilitating such cartelisation since 2013” and was also fined.
This may not be the end of the saga that has put India’s biggest brewers under a sharp regulatory and media spotlight, however. The firms and individuals involved can still appeal against the CCI’s ruling through the Competition Appellate Tribunal – which is an option that UBL hinted at being a possibility in a DrinksBusiness article.