The British regulator PCA suspects Heineken of having violated rules for contracts with pubs. The brewer may have imposed on tenants of several pubs in his chain Star Pubs & Bars more stringent than permitted obligations regarding the purchase of Heineken beer.
The investigation of the PCA, Pubs Code Adjudicator in full, focuses on the period from July 2016 to the present. Three years ago, a law for pubs came into effect that allows tenants of large pub chains to get out of purchasing obligations.
Chains in the possession of brewers may demand that these “free” tenants continue to buy their drinks, but they cannot exclude other brands. In addition, affiliated pub owners must keep the possibility of buying the beer on the free market, and not from the brewer himself.
In the research on Star Pubs & Bars, the market watchdog calls on pub owners to provide evidence that the chain has not complied with these rules. Researchers want to know, among other things, whether Heineken has demanded that tenants almost exclusively buy draft beer from the brewer. In addition, they wonder if Heineken has tried to influence the prices for its beer in pubs through contracts.
Heineken states that it fully cooperates with the investigation in a response. According to the brewer, the PCA looks at 100 pubs out of the 2700 that Heineken owns. At the same time, the company believes that the rules for pubs in the UK are complex and unclear. “We therefore hope that this research will provide the certainty and clarity that we have repeatedly asked for over the past three years,” said a spokesperson.
The brewer has considerably strengthened its position on the British market for pubs in recent years. Two years ago, the company took over 1900 cases from Punch Taverns, after which the number of pubs at Star Pubs & Bars more than doubled.