Monday, May 10, 2010
Posted by D. Daniel Sokol
Michael Waterson (Department of Economics, University of Warwick) explores Beer - the ties that bind.
ABSTRACT: It started with the Beer Orders (1989). A watershed decision was made by the Law Lords in July 2006. For one man, Bernie Crehan, this was the culmination of a 15 year episode in the pub trade, in which he has made legal history as the first UK case of damages for breach of competition law being awarded by a court. Possibly hundreds of other cases hung on their Lordships’ decision and Nomura, the Japanese bank that took over the chain called Inntrepreneur, had a total potential liability of £100m. And it all concerns Article 81, vertical agreements, and the price of a pint of beer. In 1989, the UK Monopolies and Mergers Commission published its lengthy and longawaited report on Beer. The Commission “…recommended measures that eventually led brewers to divest themselves of 14000 public houses. The MMC claimed that their recommendations would lower retail prices and increase consumer choice. There is considerable dou! bt, however, that their objectives were achieved.” (Slade, 1998, p565). In their report, the MMC noted rising real prices of beer and seized upon the power of the then big six brewers exercised through their considerable tied estates as being a prime motor. Consequently, they recommended that the ties be substantially cut. At that stage, the MMC (unlike the present day Competition Commission) did not determine remedies and it was left to the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to formulate the remedies (the Beer Orders) and the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) to supervise their implementation. Thus the OFT found itself implementing the Beer Orders in the face of a brewing industry determined to fight back.