The European Commission's antitrust authorities have charged a number of leading brewers with price fixing in the Dutch market.

The EC believes it has evidence that between 1996 and 1999, brewers operating in the country fixed prices, allocated customers and exchanged commercially sensitive information.

The EC did not name the companies it suspects of being involved in the cartel. However, European Commission spokesman Jonathan Todd said: "These practices affected the price of beer both sold to supermarkets and to hotels, restaurants and cafes."

Grolsch NV, Heineken NV and the Dutch arm of InBev SA have confirmed they had received formal charges. Bavaria has it has received a letter from the EC, which it is studying.