Germans Overpaid for Beer as Brewery Cartel Fined for Price Fix

Five German breweries, including the country’s largest family-owned beer maker, and seven people were fined 106.5 million euros ($145.5 million) for illegally colluding to raise the price of beer.

Anheuser-Busch InBev NV escaped a fine for being first to report the cartel, which triggered the investigation, Germany’s antitrust watchdog said in a statement today. A probe into two other companies continues, the office said.

“Our investigations have allowed us to prove there were agreements between the breweries based mainly on purely personal and telephone contacts,” Andreas Mundt, president of the German cartel office, said in the statement.

The breweries fined include family-owned Krombacher Brauerei GmbH, Bitburger Braugruppe GmbH, C. & A. Veltins GmbH & Co. KG, Warsteiner Brauerei Haus Cramer KG and Privatbrauerei Ernst Barre GmbH. The companies had their penalties reduced for cooperating with the probe.

“The price increases agreed for draft beer in 2006 and 2008 were in the range of 5 to 7 euros per hectoliter,” Mundt said. “For bottled beer a price increase was discussed in 2008 that should’ve led to an increase of 1 euro in the price of the 20-bottle case.”

Krombacher, based in Kreuztal, Germany, has “learned from the experience and undertook extensive training measures on compliance,” the brewer said in a statement.

Veltins declined to comment on the size of its fine and said in a statement it welcomed the end of the probe.

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