(CN) – Macedonian Thrace Brewery sued Heineken and its Greek subsidiary on Friday, accusing the Dutch brewer of bullying shops and bar owners in Greece into stocking its beer at the expense of competitors to preserve its dominant market position.
In a lawsuit filed in Amsterdam, the Greek brewery claims the strong-armed deals Heineken and its Athenian Brewery have secured in Greece over a 20-year period has stymied competition in the nation’s beer market.
That Heineken dominates the Greek beer market is beyond question. According to industry analysts, its market share has been as high as 70 percent over the past 15 years.
By comparison, Macedonian Thrace Brewery currently has about a 6 percent share of the Greek beer market through its premium beer Vergina.
According to London’s Daily Mail newspaper, Heineken produces about 200 million hectoliters of beer per year, while the Greek microbrewery produces just 200 thousand hectoliters of beer per year.
The Macedonian Thrace Brewery lawsuit follows a 12-year investigation by the Hellenic Competition Commission, which found Athenian Brewery had illegally abused its dominant market position in Greece, in violation of Greek and EU competition law.
The commission fined Heineken and Athenian Brewery €31.5 million ($33.3 million), and ordered them to cease their anti-competitive practices or face fines of €10,000 ($10,500) a day for any continuing abuses.
The brewers have announced they plan an appeal.
In a statement, Athenian Brewery said the commission ruling is unfair and said it “categorically denies the commission’s claims.”
In a statement, Demetri Politopoulos, founder and CEO of Macedonian Thrace Brewery, said the commission investigation revealed “the full extent and intensity of the illegal anti-competitive abuse of Heineken through its Greek operating company.
“For decades Heineken has been acting like a giant bully who’ll stop at nothing to get its way. It has been illegally distorting the Greek beer market while protecting the supremacy it wields, by coercing and intimidating distributors, retailers and wholesalers, and ultimately ripping off consumers,” Politopoulos said.
Representatives of Heineken and Athenian Brewery could not immediately be reached for comment on the microbrewer’s lawsuit.