Courage rebuked over beer discounts

Courage was yesterday accused by the Office of Fair Trading of breaching the statutory requirements for guest ales contained in the Supply of Beer (Tied Estate) Order introduced in 1989. The brewer, the second-largest in the UK, has agreed to amend immediately its policy and practice for guest ales.

An investigation was launched by the OFT last October following a complaint from the South Yorkshire Brewery that some Courage tenants had started to cancel orders for its Barnsley Bitter. The OFT said the complaints were over additional discounts available to tenants if they took a draught, cask-conditioned beer as a so-called guest ale from Courage.

It was alleged that, if a tenant took a guest ale from elsewhere, this discount would be removed. Sir Bryan Carsberg, director-general of Fair Trading, said: "Courage has informed me that it is amending its policy and practices in respect of these discounts to ensure that there is no doubt about its compliance with the Order.

"It will, in addition, inform all its tenants that volume discounts will not depend on their choice of supplier for a guest ale."

Courage denies that it intended to breach the guest ale provisions or to disadvantage tenants. "Tied lessees have always had the right to purchase one cask-conditioned ale from a supplier of their choice," a spokesman said.