Creating the single market: The AB InBev case in perspective

The main objective of the European Union is to establish the single market. Yet, research by the European institutions shows that there are large price and persistent differences in the retail sector between the different member states for the same goods. There are indications that trade restrictions imposed by international manufacturers are responsible for these price differences among European countries. The AB InBev case – decided by the European Commission in 2019 – identifies market segment practices which are considered as abusive conduct according to article 102 TFEU. Companies affected by such illegal trade practices can rely on the evidence of the AB InBev decision to take legal action against them. Retailers and wholesalers should take up this opportunity and contribute to the European Union’s aim of a single market. In this way, they would not only benefit from better purchasing conditions or possible claims for damages, but also protect themselves against the legal risk of “agreeing” to the trade restriction themselves.

I. Introduction 1. The Treaty on the European Union (“TEU”) explicitly states in Article 3(3) the aim of establishing a single or internal market (see European Union, 2012a). The EU competition rules are a major instrument to achieve this objective. Articles 101 (former 81) and 102 (former 82) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (“TFEU”) (see European Union, 2012b) are “applicable to horizontal and vertical agreements and practices on the part of undertakings which ‘may affect trade between Member States’” (see European Commission, 2004). 2. In economics, the perfectly competitive market model serves as the “guiding star” for regulating real markets. In an ideal market, the market price perfectly aligns with demand and supply. That is, a uniform market price is found for a

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Christian Wey, Benjamin Schröder, Daniel Fritz, Creating the single market: The AB InBev case in perspective, November 2022, Concurrences N° 4-2022, Art. N° 108966, pp. 36-42

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