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Anheuser-Busch InBev Under Fire for Potential EU Antitrust Violations

The brewing giant could be hit with fines

David Becker/Getty Images

Beer behemoth Anheuser-Busch InBev is facing a European Union investigation over its business practices in Belgium, reports the Associated Press. The EU is looking into whether AB InBev has "abused its dominant position in Belgium by hindering cheaper imports of its products from neighboring countries."

In a statement, EU competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager said the company's position in its home country is not being questioned. Instead, "we want to make sure that there are no anticompetitive obstacles to trade in beer within the European Single Market."

"Keeping out cheaper imports of its beer from neighboring countries would be both against the interests of consumers and anticompetitive," Vestager said. The commission is specifically looking into two potential violations:

  • Possibly changing the packaging of beer cans and bottles to make it harder to sell them in other countries.
  • Possibly limiting "non-Belgian" retailers access to rebates and key products to prevent them from bringing less expensive beer products to Belgium.

Either violation would be in breach of Article 102 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. If found guilty, AB InBev could face fines or "calls to change its practices," according to Financial Times. A spokesperson told the AP the company "is fully cooperating with the European Commission."

AB InBev is in the midst of a merger with SABMiller that would give the beer company 30 percent of the global market share, and it recently received approval from the EU. It's unclear if the current investigation would affect the merger in any way going forward.