$105M Lawsuit Accuses Heineken Of Bullying Its Way Into Bars & Stores

Image courtesy of Jeremy Brooks

When you think of Greece, you probably think of toasting friends with ouzo or sipping a nice wine, and not putting back a few bottles of Heineken. However, one Greek brewer claims the Dutch company has nevertheless bullied its way into staying on top of the country’s beer market and stymied competition over the last few decades in the process.

Macedonian Thrace Brewery filed a lawsuit against Heineken and its Greek subsidiary, Athenian Brewery, in Amsterdam this week, claiming it pushed stores and bar owners in the country into filling their shelves with its beer at the expense of competitors, reports Courthouse News.

Whatever Heineken is doing in Greece is apparently working: Industry analysts say the company’s market share has been as high as 70% in the last 15 years, Courthouse News notes. In comparison, MTB has around 6% of the country’s market share with its premium beer called Vergina.

As a result of Heineken’s alleged bullying, MTB says the only way it could get its product on the shelf was to sell it at a 50% discount.

MTB is accusing Heineken of engaging in unfair trade practices, and wants the court to award it €100 million ($105.7 million) in damages, as well as order Heineken to stop what it’s been doing.

The lawsuit comes after a 12-year investigation by the Hellenic Competition Commission found Athenian Brewery had illegally abused its dominant market position in Greece, in violation of Greek and EU competition law.

Heineken and Athenian Brewery were ordered to pay a fine of $33.3 million and to cease their anti-competitive practices or face daily fines of $10,500. The brewers say they’ll appeal the ruling.

Demetri Politopoulos, founder and CEO of Macedonian Thrace Brewery, said in a statement that the investigation revealed “the full extent and intensity of the illegal anti-competitive abuse of Heineken through its Greek operating company.

“For decades Heineken has been acting like a giant bully who’ll stop at nothing to get its way,” he said. “It has been illegally distorting the Greek beer market while protecting the supremacy it wields, by coercing and intimidating distributors, retailers and wholesalers, and ultimately ripping off consumers.”

Heineken and Athenian Brewery have not commented on the lawsuit.

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