The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) has called on the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) to “take the lead” and investigate the proposed Carlsberg and Marston’s merger, which it says could reduce the choice of beers available to pubgoers.
The new appeal to CEO, Dr Andrea Coscelli, follows a string of correspondence about the proposed joint venture between Carlsberg and Marston’s that CAMRA believes could have “significant anti-competitive effects” on the UK beer and pub market.
Earlier this year, Carlsberg UK and pub operator Marston’s announced a proposed transaction to form a new joint venture beer company, Carlsberg Marston’s Brewing Company.
The new company will bring together the two brewers with shared values to create “significant value” for its employees, customers and consumers in the UK market.
The Campaign is now asking the CMA to prove its credentials in standing up for consumers and commit to triggering what is known as the ‘Article 9’ referral procedure , meaning that the UK competition body could lead an investigation instead of the EU Commission, because the joint venture will mainly impact the UK beer and pub market.
CAMRA’s said the UK beer and pub market is becoming “less and less competitive” with every new merger or acquisition of a smaller brewer by a global brand.
The organisation revealed global brewers currently have a 25.25% share of UK pub companies, which will rise to nearly 32% if the proposed joint venture is allowed to “proceed without intervention”.
CAMRA CEO Tom Stainer said: “Since the day that it was announced, CAMRA has raised serious concerns about the proposed Carlsberg Marston’s Brewing Company and choice for beer drinkers, pub goers – and over the future of British beers, brands and breweries.
“We wrote to the CMA back in June and asked them to investigate. We were surprised to be told that it wasn’t a matter for them, and that we should talk to the EU Commission instead. We don’t understand why the CMA does not seem interested in investigating something that will clearly have an impact on choice of beer on the bar in pubs.”
He added: “The Competition and Markets Authority exists to promote competition for the benefit of consumers – therefore it is disappointing that they are seemingly disinterested in investigating something that will have potentially anti-competitive effects on the UK beer and pub market.
“It is vital that the CMA steps up the plate, thoroughly investigates the proposed joint venture between Marston’s and Carlsberg, and helps to ensure there is fair competition, access to market for brewers, and decent consumer choice when it comes to beer and pubs up and down the country.”
Catering Today has contacted Carlsberg for comment.