German breweries could face hundreds of millions in fines if found guilty of illegal price-fixing, in what is said to be the biggest-ever cartel investigation of the industry, wrote Focus magazine on Friday.
A probe by the Federal Cartel Office into the German beer giants, which together account for half of the German beer industry market share, is already in its final stages, a spokesman said on Friday.
Among those under investigation by are Warsteiner, Krombacher, Carlsberg, Erdinger, Bitburger, Becks manufacturer AB-Inbev, and Oetker, which makes Radeberger and Jever.
A spokesman for Warsteiner confirmed authorities were looking into “whether or not our company was possibly engaged in horizontal price fixing agreements,” but said the brewery had not been told any initial results of the inquiry.
Bitburger also said it was being investigated under "suspicion of a contravention of competition law," while Radeberger, Carlsberg, AB-Inbev und Erdinger refused to comment on the inquiry.
The inquiry, which should be completed by the summer, is the latest in a series of high-profile price-fixing scandals uncovered by Germany's anti-cartel authority in recent years.