The UK`s pub regulator has fined Heineken`s Star Pubs for taking advantage of pub tenants to promote its own drinks by forcing them to buy its inventory.
Star Pubs and Bars was fined £2 million which relates to 12 breaches of the pubs’ code which is meant to protect pub landlords from being taken advantage of by brewers. The company allegedly forced pub tenants who wanted to tie-free to sell “unreasonable levels” of its own alcohol.
The Pubs Code Adjudicator said Heineken, which owns the pub group listed a requirement in its job description for its compliance officer “to ensure the [pubs code] is interpreted to the commercial benefit of Heineken UK”.
Star, which runs 2,500 pubs across the UK of which 1,900 are leased breached the pubs code which was introduced in 2016. It states that people running pubs owned by the UK’s major brewing companies — pubcos — the chance to apply for rent-only contracts and tie-free from leases that forces them to buy a certain amount of beer from their pubco landlord.
Pubs Code adjudicator Fiona Dickie said: “The report of my investigation is a game-changer. It demonstrates that the regulator can and will act robustly to protect the rights that Parliament has given to tied tenants.
“I will be holding discussions with all the companies I regulate following my findings about how they will ensure they are code compliant.
“My message is that if anyone previously had any doubts about my resolution to act when I find breaches, they can have no doubt now.”
The managing director of Star Pubs, Lawson Mountstevens, denied some aspects of the report saying that they were “unwarranted and disproportionate”. The company is considering an appeal against the fine in the High Court.