Invitation to comment on commitments in Ringnes investigation

The Norwegian Competition Authority investigates Ringnes for possible abuse of a dominant position in the Norwegian beer market. Ringnes has now offered binding commitments, which could make it easier for pubs and restaurants to source beer from Ringnes’ rivals. Third parties are invited to comment on these commitments.

The Competition Authority has investigated Ringnes since 2017. The Authority has been concerned that agreements concluded by Ringnes with pubs and restaurants may have hindered other suppliers from selling beer to these pubs and restaurants, thereby weakening competition in the market.

– Companies are themselves responsible for ensuring that their agreements comply with the competition rules. A big player in any market should avoid exclusivity agreements or other restrictions that oblige their customers to buy most of its requirements from it. Such agreements may amount to an abuse of a dominant position, says lawyer and case manager Katrine Lien Amdam.

Increased competition
Ringnes has proposed commitments in this case. This means that Ringnes offers to accept certain obligations in order to address the competition concerns identified by the Competition Authority. The offer does not mean that Ringnes admits that it has breached the Competition Act.

According to the commitments, Ringnes cannot require pubs and restaurants to buy all or a given minimum share of their requirements for beer from Ringnes. The proposed commitments also contain limitations on what kind of rebates Ringnes can include in its agreements. Finally, Ringnes must, if needed, surrender physical space in pubs and restaurants to beer from competitors.

– The proposed commitments may make it easier for competitors of Ringnes to distribute beer in pubs and restaurants that are supplied by Ringnes. The commitments may also make it easier for competitors to replace Ringnes as the main supplier to these customers. The purpose of the commitments is to increase competition in the market for beer to pubs and restaurants, says Deputy Director Magnus Reitan.

Market consultation
The proposed commitments are now sent to customers and competitors of Ringnes for comments. They will also be published on the Competition Authority’s website:

After the market consultation, the Competition Authority will decide whether the commitments sufficiently address the competitions concerns identified by the Authority. The deadline for submitting comments is 28 February 2020.

Facts about commitments
– Any company that is being investigated by the Competition Authority may propose commitments at any time of the investigation
– Commitments can entail changes in a company’s behaviour or changes to its structure
– Proposed commitments must be suited to resolve the competition problems that have been identified
– A company that proposes commitments, is not admitting guilt
– If the Competition Authority decides to make commitments binding, it will not take a position on whether or not the Competition Act has been infringed
– A commitment decision obliges the company concerned to implement the commitments

Magnus Friis Reitan, Norwegian Competition Authority.
Magnus Friis Reitan, Norwegian Competition Authority.