CUB denies Aussie beer lock-out as brewers face probe

CUB denies Aussie beer lock-out as brewers face probe

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is investigating the nation’s brewers to find out if certain players have been locked out of the off-premise market.

But SAB Miller subsidiary Carlton & United Breweries (CUB), which owns Australia's No.2 beer brand Victoria Bitter (VB), denies locking smaller rivals out of on-premise distribution and tells The Australian it believes all brewers encourage outlets to stock their beer with incentives such as volume rebates, tap maintenance, equipment.

Last week the ACCC sent a letter to brewers seeking to find out if anti-competitive conduct had taken place and querying profit margins.

ACCC seeks to ‘better understand’ supply

A letter sent to Wade Curtis, who manages Queensland’s Four Hearts Brewing Company, reads: “The ACCC is currently undertaking some enquiries to better understand aspects of the supply conditions within the wholesale draft beer market, and to understand how certain conduct may be affecting competition.

Posting a photo of the letter on Facebook, Curtis said on Monday: “Three years ago I wrote to the ACCC after being told a bar wanted to have my beer on tap but couldn’t due to their tap contract.

“Today I opened my mail to find this letter. I can’t wait to see the outcome.”

Do you earn a competitive margin?

The letter asks questions such as ‘do you have an exclusive distribution arrangement with any customers for draft beer supply?’ and whether the business in question earns a competitive margin from prices paid in venues.

Industry is also asked to identify venues that have refused to stock their beer, with the ACCC seeking responses by February 21.

Lion and SAB Miller (via Carlton United Breweries) dominate the Australian beer market, and although neither is accused of wrongdoing, smaller companies have complained about on premise distribution hurdles in recent years, with pubs aligned to the big players.

The kickback for pubs and bars is a rebate on beer prices if a minimum proportion of lines, anything from 60-100%, are sourced from a preferred supplier.

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