Stars Pubs and Bars, part of the Heineken group, owns a number of pubs in the UK which sell its beers under a so-called tied house system which limits the number of other brands pubs can offer. Landlords can, however, choose to expand the number of brands they are selling in exchange for an increase in rent.
Heineken has now been found guilty of forcing pub landlords who want to opt for this possibility to sell ‘unreasonable levels’ of its products folowing a report by the PCA’s Fiona Dickie.
Dickie, whose investigation covered alleged infringements by Heineken between 2016 and 2019, said her report is a ‘game changer which demonstrates that the regulator will act robustly to protect the rights that parliament has given to tied tenants.’
The director of Star Pubs & Bars, Lawson Mountstevens, said the decision was ‘deeply frustrating’ and that the company is considering an appeal.
‘We have been transparent in our dealings with the pubs from the start, asking the regulator for advice on the conditions we should offer to licensees but they consistently refused to react to these requests,’ broadcaster Nos quoted him as saying.
However, the PCA called the company’s efforts to comply with the rules ‘for the most part inadequate and not credible,’ the BBC said.
Mountstevens also said the fine would harm pubs and licensees at a time of financial crisis. Heineken itself already stands to make a net loss of €300m on its second quarter of the year because of the coronavirus crisis.
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