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Friday, 19 May, 2000, 07:46 GMT 08:46 UK
Coca-Cola offices raided
Coca-Cola bottling factory
European Commission officials have raided the London and Brussels offices of Coca-Cola's distributor as part of an investigation into alleged anti-competitive practices.

Coca-Cola was embarrassed last year by complaints to the EC which prompted unannounced visits to offices of bottling operations in Germany, Austria and Denmark. Some 10,000 pages of documents were seized.

The latest raids, on Thursday, were part of a widening probe into whether Coca-Cola and its 40%-owned bottler, Coca-Cola Enterprises, have breached European Union competition laws by offering retailers illegal incentives to buy Coke products at the expense of rival brands.

Atlanta-based Coca-Cola is the world's largest soft drinks company. Coca-Cola Enterprises is the largest bottler of Coca-Cola.

The new investigation focuses on the British and Belgian markets, where Coca-Cola brands, including Coke, Fanta and Sprite, enjoy a commanding lead over those of its arch-rival PepsiCo.

Complaints

PepsiCo and other companies have complained in the past about Coca-Cola's competitive practices in European markets.

The investigation will assess whether the bottler's distribution practices, "may constitute an abuse of a dominant position in violation of EU competition rules," EU Competition Commissioner Mario Monti told a news conference.

Companies found guilty of anti-competitive practices in breach of EU law can be fined up to 10% of their global turnover, although in practice such onerous fines have never been levied.

Coca-Cola says it believes it is in full compliance with all European laws and regulations.

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See also:

18 May 00 | South Asia
Cola row in India
22 Jul 99 | The Company File
Coca-Cola premises raided
22 Jul 99 | The Company File
Why Coca-Cola was raided
26 Jan 00 | Business
Coca-Cola cuts 6,000 jobs
16 Jun 99 | The Company File
European warning over Coca-Cola
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