Jan 13 - Five German brewers have been fined more than 100 million euros for fixing the price of beer. As Sonia Legg reports the case could damage an industry which is a source of national pride.
It's Europe's biggest producer of beer and Germans consume more of it per head than any other European country, apart from Austria and the Czech Republic. But this source of national pride has just been tarnished. Germany's anti-trust regulator has fined five German brewers 107 million euros for fixing prices. The Federal Cartel Office also says seven people who work in the industry were also given financial penalties as part of a settlement agreement. (SOUNDBITE) (German) GERMAN FEDERAL CARTEL OFFICE PRESIDENT ANDREAS MUNDT, SAYING: "In the years 2006 and 2008 these companies have agreed to raise the beer prices in the range from five to seven euros per barrel. In 2008 there was in addition an arrangement to spike prices for bottled beer, about one euro per crate of beer." The German unit of beer giant AnHeuser-Busch InBev also took part in price fixing They were spared a fine because they helped blow the whistle. Two more brewery groups and four regional German brewers are also still under investigation. (SOUNDBITE) (German) GERMAN FEDERAL CARTEL OFFICE PRESIDENT ANDREAS MUNDT, SAYING: "This beer cartel was based on very personal contacts. The price fixings were indeed arranged at personal meetings, by telephone calls of high ranking executives or even the company owners themselves." Germany has 1,300 breweries in total - and the ingredients they use is closely monitored. Last March Danish brewer Carlsberg said it was under investigation by the German central office. But the regulator hasn't yet named any of the other breweries allegedly involved.