Competition: General Court reduces the fines imposed on Heineken, Heineken Nederland and Bavaria for their participation in the Dutch beer cartel

The General Court (“GC”) handed down its judgments on 16 June 2011 in appeals by Heineken NV, its subsidiary Heineken Nederland BV (“Heineken and its subsidiary”) and Bavaria NV (Bavaria) against a Commission decision finding that they had infringed Article 101 TFEU. The Commission fined in April 2007 Heineken and its subsidiary, Grolsch NV and Bavaria a total of EUR 273 million for operating an illegal price-fixing cartel in the beer market in the Netherlands.

The companies concerned subsequently brought actions before the GC seeking annulment of the Commission’s decision or a reduction in their fines. The GC considered that the Commission has not proved that the infringement concerned the occasional coordination of commercial conditions, other than prices, offered to individual customers in the on-trade segment. The GC found that the references in the handwritten notes that the Commission relied on, are sporadic and brief, that the companies have put forward a plausible alternative explanation, and that there is no other specific evidence.

Consequently, the GC annuls the Commission’s decision on that point and reduces the fines on Heineken and its subsidiary and Bavaria. The GC reduced the fines imposed on the applicants, finding that the Commission had not proven that the infringement concerned the occasional co-ordination of commercial conditions, other than prices, offered to individual customers in the on-trade segment.

Further, the length of the administrative procedure had infringed the principle that proceedings must be completed within a reasonable period. Therefore, the GC increased the reduction already granted by the Commission. Source: General Court Press Release 16/6/2011

Roschier, Attorneys Ltd. - Sweden