CCI raids Associated Liquors and Som Distilleries in price-fixing probe
New Delhi: Antitrust Observatory Competition Commission of India (ICC) The offices of Associated Alcohols & Breweries and Som Distilleries were raided on Wednesday as part of an investigation into allegations of alcohol price-fixing, two sources with direct knowledge of the matter said.
The ICC officials were conducting search and seizure operations in multiple cities in a case involving the companies allegedly violating antitrust laws by colluding on prices while seeking necessary state regulatory approvals, the sources added.
The investigation relates to the pricing of so-called country liquor, or locally made alcohol at low prices, the sources added.
India has strict regulations for the alcohol sector. Most states regulate alcohol prices individually, and companies must submit and have prices approved annually by local authorities.
Without commenting directly on the raids, a spokesperson for Som Distilleries said liquor prices were set by government officials and the company had no say in them.
“We have no authority to set the price… This is a fully government controlled business,” the spokesperson said in an email to Reuters.
The CCI did not respond to a request for comment, while emails and phone calls to Associated Alcohols went unanswered.
After Reuters published details of the raid, shares of Associated Alcohols fell about 3% but then recouped their losses.
Further details of the case and the raids were not available from the ICC because the agency does not generally make information about its investigations public.
Associated’s website says it is the Madhya Pradesh government’s main supplier of alcohol for sales in the state. SOM Group, which includes Som Distilleries, has a portfolio of brands that includes spirits and beer products.
Wednesday’s raids come just weeks after the ICC fined beer giant United Breweries $102 million and Carlsberg $16 million India in a price collusion case. These businesses were raided in 2018 as part of an investigation.
In September, the CCI raided the local offices of several vegetable seed companies, including a unit of BASF in Germany, in a price collusion case.
During these surprise raids, company documents and computer equipment are seized, while executives are questioned about their practices. An investigation could take several months.