Fifteen beverage alcohol producers in the US have paid a combined US$2.3m to settle a probe into rebates and gifts given to retailers to market their products in New York.

An investigation by the New York Attorney General found the incentives totalled around US$9m from 2003 to 2005. Attorney General Eliot Spitzer said the incentives can lead to higher prices and less choice for consumers.

Under the settlement, companies including Brown-Forman, Constellation Brands, Diageo and Pernod Ricard agreed to ban the use of incentives such as rebates, allowances, cash and gifts to gain favour for their products.

A Constellation spokesman said the wine giant had been forced to pay around US$200,000 as part of the settlement.

"We co-operated with the Attorney General's office in this probe from day one. We have a very well-defined code of conduct that has been in place for years and we expect all of our sales forces and marketing people to abide by it," the spokesman told just-drinks today (31 October).

In September, the eight largest beverage alcohol wholesalers agreed to pay fines of US$1.6m under a similar probe.