Watchdog drops Coca-Cola probe

Watchdog drops Coca-Cola probe

SINGAPORE's unfair competition watchdog has dropped its probe into Coca-Cola Singapore Beverages after the company agreed to amend some potentially anti- competitive supply deals.

The Competition Commission of Singapore (CCS) said on Thursday that the soft drinks giant had voluntarily changed the agreements concerned and given its undertaking on several issues.

Among other things, Coke will not insist that on-premise retailers - such as coffee shops and restaurants that wish to sell other brands of beverages - first negotiate with the company before proceeding further.

It agreed not to impose any exclusivity restrictions on these Coca-Cola retailers regarding non-alcoholic beverages, except in limited circumstances such as event sponsorships.

It also agreed not to grant loyalty-inducing rebates that lead to on-premise retailers buying exclusively from the company.

In addition, Coca-Cola will allow its on-premise retailers to use up to 20 per cent of the space in coolers it provides to store other brands of beverages, where these retailers have no access to alternative cooling equipment.

Coca-Cola Singapore is the leader in non-alcoholic beverages here. It also produces, markets and distributes beverages such as Schweppes, zero-sugar sparkling drinks such as Sprite and teas such as Heaven & Earth.

CCS began investigations in March last year after receiving a complaint that Coca-Cola had included restrictive provisions in its supply contracts with on-premise retailers.

"Having reviewed the facts and circumstances of the case, CCS has ceased its investigation into (Coca-Cola) but will continue to closely monitor market practices in the local soft drinks market," it said on Thursday.

It added that the alteration of the supply agreements by Coca-Cola was one factor it considered. Responding to Straits Times queries, the CCS said this was not the first case.

"Although the incidence of complaints in the soft drinks market is not high, CCS assesses each complaint on its own merits."

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