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EU charges Dutch brewers with price-fixing.

AP -- The EU head office on Friday charged Dutch brewers with running a cartel that fixed beer prices from 1996 to 1999.

The European Commission said it had evidence that rival beer companies in the Netherlands agreed on prices, allocated customers, discussed individual customers and exchanged commercially important and confidential information.

"These practices affected the price of beer both sold to supermarkets and to hotels, restaurants and cafes," said European Commission spokesman Jonathan Todd.

The EU antitrust regulator never names the companies suspected of operating a cartel, but Royal Grolsch NV, Heineken NV and the Dutch arm of InBev SA confirmed they had received formal charges but refused to comment.

Han van der Veen, spokesman for Bavaria NV, said the company received "a fat letter" from the European Commission.

"We're going to need to read through it to figure out exactly what it is that they're accusing us of," he said. "But ... we don't agree with it and we deny any guilt." He declined to say whether there was any information in the letter about the size of fines Bavaria could face.

The companies have two months to respond in writing. If found guilty, the EU can fine them up to 10 percent of their annual sales.

In 2004, it fined Heineken and French food and beverage maker Groupe Danone more than $3 million for illegally controlling the French beer market. It has also fined brewers in Belgium and Luxembourg. A similar investigation in Italy was closed without charges being brought.
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Publication:Modern Brewery Age
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:4EUNE
Date:Sep 12, 2005
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