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Friday, 1 March, 2002, 21:10 GMT
Brewers deny anti-competition claim
Carlsberg deny the claims
Danish Brewer Carlsberg and Dutch counterpart Heineken have been accused of violating European competition rules.

The European Commission (EC) alleges that the two companies had an agreement, that lasted from 1993 to 1996, to keep out of each other's home markets.

Both brewers deny the claims and accused the EC of "blowing the case out of proportion".

They said they would study the allegations closely and prepare a defence.

The commission treats this kind of behaviour very seriously

EC spokesman
The EC said Fridays action was part of a wider investigation into Europe's breweries, which takes in companies in France, the Netherlands, Italy and Portugal.

It said the investigations were still at an early stage.

Carlsberg and Heineken have two months to prepare a written response to the allegations, or risk facing a fine.

"The commission treats this kind of behaviour very seriously, because market sharing is amongst the most blatant forms of anti-competitive practise," it said.

Last year, the commission fined Belgian beer company Interbrew 46.5 million euros ($40m, 28.3m) and Danone, former owner of Alken Maes beer, 44.6 million euros for fixing prices in the Belgian beer market.

Carlsberg said the allegations stemmed from contacts between it and Heineken's former chief executive officers, which it said were simply "courtesy relations and ordinary business discussion".

"There were no discussions of anything we would have benefited from," the company said.

See also:

27 Feb 02 | Business
Heineken profits in line
05 Dec 01 | Business
EU cracks down on drinks firms
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