European Commission inspectors have raided Coca-Cola Co. offices in four countries as part of an investigation of whether the world's largest soft-drink company is abusing its dominant position in the market, the Financial Times reported in today's editions.
Officials investigating the practices of Atlanta-based Coca-Cola in Germany, Austria and Denmark this week raided offices in those countries, as well as in Britain, where the main bottler for Austria has its headquarters, the British newspaper said.
Coca-Cola officials confirmed the raids had been conducted and said they were cooperating fully, the Financial Times said. [Company spokesman Paul Pendergrass said the commission's visits began Tuesday and continued today, Bloomberg News reported.]
The Financial Times said the raids were the beginning of an investigation into whether Coca-Cola abused its position in those markets by offering incentives to retailers to increase sales, carry the full range of Coke products or stop selling competitors' drinks.
Officials of the commission, the executive body of the European Union, said the investigation is in its early stages and will determine whether there is sufficient evidence to launch a full case against the soft-drink maker, the newspaper said. If Coca-Cola is found guilty of the violations it will be subject to fines of up to 10 percent of the turnover of the businesses involved, the report said.
The European Commission also has written to retailers and distributors to seek their views.
News of the investigation is another blow to Coca-Cola in Europe. A health scare originating in Belgium last month saw Coke products removed from the shelves in four EU countries.