A pub group owned by drinks giant Heineken has been fined £2million by the Pubs Code Adjudicator for breaching the code over a period of three years.
In the first probe of its kind, the regulator found that where a Star Pubs & Bars pub tenant had asked to no longer be tied to Heineken, they were still made to sell ‘unreasonable levels’ of Heineken beers and ciders.
In the report the PCA described Star as a repeat offender and said the company had been given opportunities to set itself on the right path ‘but intentionally or negligently failed to do so.’
At one point 96 tenants who requested a free-of-tie option were told that all of the keg beer they sold had to be Heineken brands, the PCA added.
Star has refuted ‘many aspects’ of the PCA’s findings.
Lawson Mountstevens, managing director, Star Pubs & Bars, said: ‘We are deeply disappointed and frustrated at the outcome of this investigation.
‘There are many aspects of the report that we fundamentally disagree with and we are actively considering an appeal.
Under a ‘tied’ lease, pub tenants must buy a certain amount of beer from their landlords, but they can ask to break free of the tie using a ‘market rent only’ option.
This arrangement means they may still be required to stock the brewer’s beer, but strict limits have been set on how much they are obliged to buy since the pubs code came into effect. This is where the PCA found the breaches.
A total of 12 breaches were identified and PCA Fiona Dickie warned that other brewers could face similar actions if required.
Ms 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.
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