CCHBC cries foul on fine

Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling Company (CCHBC) yesterday accused the Competition Commission of favoring its rivals, following an 8.7-million-euro fine recently imposed on the listed company for not complying with an earlier decision. «This decision not only offends this company and harms its prestige, but also provides unacceptably favorable treatment to our rivals,» CCHBC’s Chairman Georgios David told the firm’s general meeting. «It is unacceptable, as it ignores the European Commission’s decision on assumption of responsibility, issued in 2005 and already applied in 13 countries. This decision resolves the problem of the exclusive use of fridges by drink retailers in a way that cannot be misinterpreted, as in Decision 207 by the Competition Commission,» David said. He added that although his firm had asked for clarification about its compliance, the Competition Commission answered that there was nothing in its decision that required clarification. David further stated that the time that lapsed between the decision in 2002 and the start of the auditing to ensure compliance in 2005, plus another year until the imposition of the fine «raises questions as to whether this is the ideal way to protect competition and guide enterprises into complying with the rules.» He also accused the Commission of ignoring the data submitted by the company and the principle of proportion, «by imposing the full fine for a minimum number of so-called confirmed violations at some of the company’s 165,000 sale points.» He noted his firm will exhaust all options provided by law. The Competition Commission refused to comment on David’s statements and sources suggested that «it had said all it had to say regarding its decision.» Shareholders approved a dividend of 0.30 euros per share. For this year the firm, one of the largest Coke bottlers worldwide, expects trade volume to rise by 8 percent, while its planned investments will reach 480 million euros.

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