In 2015, the Hellenic (Greek) Competition Commission (HCC) found Heineken’s Greek Subsidiary Athenian Brewery (AB) guilty of violating competition laws.
According to the HCC, AB “implemented a single and targeted policy that sought to exclude its competitors” from the Greek beer market by offering “significant payments” and “economic motives” to retailers and wholesalers for over 16 years. The complaint was filed by Greek company Macedonian Thrace Brewery (MTB). At the time AB was fined a record €31.5 million for this violation.
However the HCC did not include the parent company Heineken in their investigation. Allowing Heineken to escape liability for the actions of their subsidiary.
Following this in 2017, MTB filed a claim for damages against the Dutch beer giant Heineken and AB in the Amsterdam District Courts of Netherlands. Their argument was that the case must be heard in Dutch courts since AB’s illegal activities were done with supervision and knowledge of Heineken’s leadership at headquarters. The Amsterdam District Court denied jurisdiction in May 2018.
But in February 2021, the Amsterdam Court of Appeal reversed the decision of the District Court, allowing MTB to file claims against both Heineken and their Greek subsidiary AB in Dutch Courts.
Heineken and Athenian Brewery will now both be held accountable in the Netherlands for the market abuse that was documented so powerfully in the HCC’s historic ruling,” said Demetri Chriss, Director of Business Development at MTB, as per GlobeNewswire.
This judgment also sends a strong message to the ‘too big to fail’ multinationals that use layered ownership structures to avoid parental liability for the actions of their badly behaving subsidiaries.”Demetri Chriss, Director of Business Development, MTB
Heineken: A repeat offender
This is not the first time Heineken violates competition laws.
- In 2007, the company was fined €219 million by the European Commission for participating in a cartel with its rival AB InBev and other beer giants.
- In 2019, Heineken reached a $2.5 million settlement with US regulators over anti-competitive behavior.
- In 2020, Heineken UK was fined £2 million for having “seriously and repeatedly breached” competition rules for pub operators.
- Heineken was described as a “repeat offender” by the UK ombudsman, the Pubs Code Adjudicator.
Apart from violating competition laws Heineken’s profile of offenses includes other unethical business practices ranging from tax evasion to grave human rights violations, for example in the African region. The book “Heineken in Africa” investigated and exposed many of Heineken’s crimes against the African people. Some of these include:
- Support for apartheid,
- Complicity in genocide,
- Support for authoritarian regimes and collaboration with rebel groups,
- Exploitation of young women,
- Sexual abuse,
- Serious problems with protecting worker’s rights, and
- Aggressive political lobbying to obstruct, derail and undermine public health policy making
Cision PR Newswire: “Investigation into Athenian Brewery – Heineken“