Mexican anti-monopoly agency upholds one fine against Coca-Cola, distributors |

Mexican anti-monopoly agency upholds one fine against Coca-Cola, distributors

MEXICO CITY – Mexico’s Federal Competition Commission has upheld on appeal a fine levied against Coca-Cola Co.’s Mexico subsidiary and some of its bottlers for allegedly pressuring shopkeepers not to offer another cola brand at their stores.The fine of US$15 million (euro13 million) came on a complaint filed in 2003 by Raquel Chavez, who operates a tiny one-room shop in a rough Mexico City neighborhood. Chavez said her Coca Cola supplier refused to sell to her because she started carrying Big Cola, a rival brand.The fine, first handed down on July 4, was subject to a mandatory appeals period; the commission upheld the fine in a ruling last week, and that decision was confirmed on Tuesday by the parties in the case.”This is a very good ruling. This will restore confidence to shopkeepers, because now they will now be able to decide what they want to sell and what they don’t,” said Miguel Fabregas, a lawyer who advised Big Cola in the case.The upstart cola maker joined Chavez’s complaint when it became clear that it had largely been the target of the alleged monopolistic practices.Adriana Valladares, a spokeswoman for Coca-Cola’s Mexico subsidiary, said the firm “received the commission’s ruling with respect” and was “weighing the options available under the law.”The company can appeal the fine through the court system, but has announced no decision on whether to do so, Valladares said.Eduardo Perez Mota, president of competition commission, said that Chavez’s case had apparently inspired other small business owners to inquire about possible unfair commercial practices in their industries.”The impact of this is leading us to reevaluate our work with small businesses,” Perez Mota said. “We are going to approach small businesses throughout the nation, to ensure that they benefit from our work.”Still pending in the mandatory appeals process is a larger, US$53 million (euro45 million) fine imposed Aug. 12 against Coca-Cola distributors in a similar case brought by rival PepsiCo Inc. A ruling on that appeal is expected soon.Vail, Colorado

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