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MEXICO CITY - Mexico's antitrust commission has found Coca-Cola Co. and 89 of its bottlers guilty of trying to shut key competitors out of Mexico's soft drink market, The Associated Press reports.
As a result, Coke is being ordered to stop offering exclusivity contracts and to discontinue some its sales and marketing practices in Mexico, its largest market outside the United States. The company was not fined, according to the AP.
The Federal Competition Commission said Coke has been violating Mexico's competition laws by signing exclusivity contracts with thousands of small convenience and grocery stores. It said the company often gives small stores refrigerators, Coke signs and other company merchandise for free.
Coke spokesman Ben Deutsch said company officials most familiar with the ruling were not available to comment Thursday night, but said, "We respect the decision of the Competition Commission and will take time to review it before determining next steps."
The ruling came in response to complaints submitted more than two years ago by Coke's chief competitor, PepsiCo Inc., and a pair of Mexican soft drink manufacturers.
Coke controls more than 70 percent of Mexico's soft drink market, even though Pepsi also offers small stores similar exclusivity deals, according to the AP.