Five German breweries fined for price-fixing scheme

Five German brewing companies were fined millions by German authorities for colluding to fix prices between 2006 and 2008.

The companies -- Bitburger, Krombacher, Veltins, Warsteiner and Barre -- have been ordered to pay a combined 106.5 million euros (about $145.5 million), along with seven people "personally involved" in the price fixing scheme, according to a statement from the Federal Cartel Office.

The collusion started in joint meetings between national breweries, which first agreed to price hikes for their draught and bottled suds, the authorities said. Then in 2006 and 2007, at meetings of the regional brewery association, several of the breweries agreed to increases with some regional companies.

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The end result: Price bumps of 5 to 7 euros (about $6.80 to $9.56) per 100 liters (26.4 gallons) of brew in 2006 and 2008. The breweries also agreed on a plan to boost the price of 20-bottle crates of beer by 1 euro.

In a statement, Andreas Mundt, the president of the cartel office, said the agreements between beer companies were mostly based on face-to-face conversations and telephone calls.

Anheuser-Busch InBev Germany, a division of beer giant AB InBev, first brought the matter to authorities and will therefore not be fined, the authorities said.

Four of the breweries -- Bitburger, Krombacher, Veltins and Warsteiner -- also cooperated with the cartel office and received lower fines.


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