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Large breweries ‘pay publicans not to stock smaller companies’ beer, cider’

Free kegs, event cash and refurbishment payment for pubs are used by major brewers, Labour’s Alan Kelly claims

Large brewing companies in Ireland are engaging in anti-competitive practices, Alan Kelly claimed

Large brewing companies in Ireland are engaging in anti-competitive practices and abusing their market dominance to prevent smaller firms selling their beer and cider to pubs, the Dáil has heard.

In a trenchant criticism of major breweries, Labour TD Alan Kelly also accused them of acting illegally and “telling publicans they will give them funds, will pay for refurbishment, give them free kegs and event cash as long as they get rid of the other brands”.

The Tipperary TD said that a case had been taken in Greece where a subsidiary of Heineken was fined tens of millions after a small brewer took a high court case.

He said a pub in Cork he was in recently had 21 taps of which 19 were from one brewing company and that smaller breweries tried to get some of that business.

Mr Kelly claimed similar practices were occurring in pubs across all counties and that the statutory body that deals with anti-competitive practices, the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC), had received a number of complaints but did not have the resources to deal with the issue.

However, Minister of State Pat Breen said “after a robust examination” the CCPC found it did not have grounds to suspect a breach of the law.

Mr Kelly said that “the dogs in the street know what is happening here” and that the Minister’s response was insulting to the industry.

He said the CCPC would need large resources to investigate the issue and “large amounts of cash and resources are being used, and these practices are happening in large pubs in all cities and towns in Ireland”.

The Labour TD, who has sponsored legislation to allow craft brewers sell their product and give samples to those doing tours of small breweries, said it was unacceptable to allow such dominance.

Mr Breen suggested that if Mr Kelly had any evidence of such practices he should bring that evidence to the commission and that it would have “no problem further examining the evidence produced by you”.