The High Court has allowed East African Breweries Limited (EABL) to mop up its branded beer bottles from the market, pending the determination of a case filed by six distributors of Keroche Breweries.
Justice Grace Nzioka directed the beer maker to collect its branded bottles, and the two rivals should not place any related advertisements, pending her ruling on January 24. The judge will rule on whether to strike out the suit or issue interim orders stopping EABL from collecting the bottles.
Through lawyer Kamau Karori, the EABL argued for the striking out of the case saying a similar matter raising the same issues was before another judge.
He said the distributors did not have the authority to file the case because they have not identified any direct link between them and EABL or KBL, to warrant the issuance of the orders sought. The embossment, he said, is done at the point of manufacture by the glass maker, with a lifespan of five years, which are returnable and reusable.
But through advocate Irungu Kang’ata, the distributors said they were ones suffering because they were being arrested by police and taken to court, over the battle for the bottles.
Mr Kang’ata said the distributors were also distributing beer for other manufacturers, not only Keroche.
The distributors including Alexander Mugo, Jacob Wamiti, Phasty Wanjitu Wachira and Samuel Kamau said EABL was interfering with their only source of income by acts aimed at pushing Keroche Breweries out of the market.
Mr Kang’ata urged Justice Nzioka to stop that harassment since the business that was being hurt is that of the distributors who are caught up in the cross fire by trade wars between EABL and KBL.
He urged the judge to restrain EABL from harassing the distributors.
He said the giant beer manufacturer in East and Central Africa is mopping up all the brown bottles from the market to return them glass manufacturer the Central Glass Industries once owned by EABL to emboss them with the mark.
“Once it succeeds in the placing the EABL mark then it will smoothly lock out all its competitors from the market,” Kang’ata.
He said the parties in the present case are different from those in the one filed in 2017 before Justice Ochieng by KBL.
He told the judge Article 165 of the Constitution gives the Court unlimited powers to determine all issues in dispute.
The judge heard EABL in Uganda has not dared lock out other competitors using brown bottles.
The lawyer said in Uganda all beer manufacturers are using the brown bottle.
Kang’ata told Justice Nzioka the distributors have invested millions in distribution business
Mr Kang’ata said the move by EABL of embossing all beer bottles with its unique initials is a negation of principles of a free and competitive market economy.
He added that the act is predatory, noting that it locks out other sellers of beer from the Kenyan market, who uses the same shape of bottle.