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Last Updated: Tuesday, 19 October, 2004, 15:55 GMT 16:55 UK
Coke opens fridge door to rivals
Coca Cola bottles
Coca Cola has a 50% market share in Europe
Coca Cola is to reform its sales practices in order to settle a long-running inquiry by European Union (EU) competition watchdogs.

Under the deal, Coca Cola will let shops use 20% of the space in its branded coolers to stock rival drinks.

The company will also stop offering incentives which encourage retailers to order more of its products each time.

The EU has in return agreed to drop its probe, which could have resulted in hefty fines for the soft drinks giant.

Market share

EU competition commissioner Mario Monti said the deal would allow consumers to "choose on the basis of price and personal preferences rather than pick up a Coca Cola product because it's the only one on offer."

The EU launched its inquiry into Coca Cola's sales practices five years ago in response to a complaint from arch-rival Pepsi.

Coca Cola controls about half the European soft drinks market, while Pepsi has just 10%.

The investigation is among the first EU competition probes to be concluded using a negotiated settlement, a procedure only recently adopted by EU anti-trust officials.

Freedom of choice

Coca Cola's commitments under the settlement deal are legally binding in all EU countries, and any breach of them could result in fines being imposed by national courts.

Those commitments also include a promise to stop forcing retailers who want to stock the best-selling Coke and Fanta brands to buy less popular Coca Cola products such as Sprite as well.

Coca Cola has also agreed to abandon exclusivity arrangements, which prevent some shops, bars and restaurants from stocking rival drinks.

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