EU regulators accuse AB InBev of preventing cheap beer imports

BRUSSELS, Nov 30 (Reuters) - European Union antitrust regulators accused Anheuser-Busch InBev, the world’s largest brewer, on Thursday of hindering cheaper imports into Belgium of its Jupiler and Leffe brands from neighbouring France and the Netherlands.

The European Commission, which presides over competition policy in the 28-nation EU, said it had sent a statement of objections to the brewer and that its preliminary view was that the company had abused its dominant position in Belgium.

“Belgian consumers may have had to pay more for their favourite beers. Our preliminary finding is that AB InBev may have deliberately prevented cheaper beer imports out of France and the Netherlands from reaching consumers in Belgium,” EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said in a statement.

“Such practices would breach EU competition rules, because they deny consumers the benefits of the EU Single Market – choice and lower prices. AB InBev now has the opportunity to respond to our concerns.”

The Commission opened formal antitrust proceedings in June 2016. (Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop)