The Competition Authority finds Super Bock guilty of fixing minimum resale prices for HORECA
On July 25, 2019, the Competition Authority announced it had ordered Super Bock Bebidas S.A, a director and manager of the company to pay a fine of 24 million euros. The accusation was based on a practice consisting of fixing minimum resale prices and other resale conditions for the products of Super Bock for HORECA, between 2006 and 2007.
Fines of this scale are not common, when reviewing the decision-making practice of the Competition Authority. In view of the fines recently imposed for these types of unlawful actions, there seems to be a clear increase in the percentages of the fines applied. It should be recalled that, in the terms of the Competition Act, these infringements may be punished by up to 10% of the turnover. However, the historical figures for fines applied is far below 3%.
The proceedings commenced in June 2016 by hearing two complaints filed by former distributors of Super Bock. In 2017, the Competition Authority carried out down raids at the facilities of Super Bock, which culminated in a warning note sent in August 2018.
Unicer allegedly interfered in the setting of prices and other selling conditions which had to be adopted by the distributors, in particular those forming part of the HORECA channel. These distributors purchased the products from the supplier and resold them on the market. If it was Unicer that defined the prices to be used, then the distributors had no way of competing with each other through the most relevant aspect of commercial trade, i.e. the price. The consumers were harmed by less competition in the distribution.
Super Bock commented on this and considered that the amount of the fine applied was excessive and disproportionate. Apart from this, it also stated it intended to appeal the decision of the Competition Authority with the courts.