India: Big Alcohol Price Cartel Exposed
The investigations unit of India’s Competition Commission has exposed a Big Alcohol Price Cartel in the country.
According to Reuters, the commission has concluded that Anheuser-Busch InBev, Carlsberg and United Breweries colluded to fix beer prices.
The commission launched the investigation after AB InBev played whistelblower and said they detected a price cartel leading to the raiding of offices of the three brewers for evidence.
After an internal investigation in 2017, AB InBev reported its detection of industry collusion under the CCI’s so-called “leniency programme” that provides a whistleblower-type protection for cartel members.
The disclosures came after it discovered the Indian operations – which it acquired through its purchase of SABMiller Plc – had for years fixed beer prices with Carlsberg and United Breweries.
Carlsberg and United Breweries have also filed leniency applications.
The investigation has found that 15 to 20 executives from the three brewers were involved in discussions of beer prices before they were submitted to Indian state regulators, thereby violating antitrust laws.
The chairman of the CCI, Ashok Kumar Gupta, and other members of the commission are expected to decide on a penalty over the next few months, or dispute the investigation findings which were submitted in August, the two sources said.
The three brewers, according to IWSR Drinks Market Analysis account for about 85% of beer consumption in the $7 billion India market. The companies together face a potential fine of around $280 million.
AB InBev is also currently embroiled in another scandal of unethical practices. AB InBev products have been banned in Delhi city-wide as a sentence for systematic tax evasion. This is not the first time Big Alcohol was caught up with business malpractice in India.