Bar Owner Scores Major Win Against EABL in Bottle War
A Kajiado bar owner now breathes a sigh of relief after the High Court in Kajiado on Wednesday, January 15, issued an order prohibiting the police or any other person from arraigning, charging or prosecuting her in relation to the use or possession of the 500ml Euro bottle design that is at the center of a court battle between the East African Breweries Limited (EABL) and Keroche Breweries.
Agneta Loise Munzi had petitioned the High Court to stop her prosecution on the charge of using EABL engraved Euro bottles at her Arusha Bar and Plan B Bar in Ilbissil town within Kajiado County.
This is after police raided her bar on December 27, 2019, and seized the bottles.
"In the meantime, a conservatory order be and is hereby issued prohibiting the prosecution of the petitioner in relation to the possession of the 500ml Euro bottle design bottles seized by the police at the applicants bar on December 27, 2019, pending further orders on February 2, 2020," the court ruling read in part.
In her petition, Munzi claimed that the marking of the bottles by EABL was employed to discourage bar owners from stocking competitors’ products.
Her lawyer, Chris Kabugu, argued that the engraving of the 500ml universal bottle had created an environment conducive for corruption and bribery and was disruptive of the business environment.
In a sworn affidavit, Munzi narrated that two people who identified with EABL alongside four police officers forcefully carried out a search of her bar and harassed her customers who were ordered out of the bar.
The defence detailed how some customers were briefly arrested but paid bribes before they were allowed to scamper for safety. No search warrants or explanations for the assault was given, Munzi's lawyer argued.
She narrated how she was initially held Ilbissil patrol base and bail denied. She was later transferred to Kajiado Police station at about 7 p.m. and was not granted bail until 10 p.m. on December 27, 2019, when her lawyer intervened.
A number of interested parties have filed petitions against EABL over the engraving of the commonly used 500ml Euro bottles, among them, Keroche Breweries.
The Council of Bar Owners Association held a press conference on January 8, at a Nairobi hotel issuing a 14-day ultimatum to both EABL and Keroche Breweries to resolve the Euro bottle standoff or face a boycott by its 52,000 members.
"Our members are really suffering, where some have been arrested and charged with selling counterfeit products," Charles Loidima, a representative of Narok County bar owners stated.
"We as bar owners have resolved to call for a consumer boycott against a manufacturer who wants to cause confusion in the market," he added.
According to the association and Munzi’s petitions, EABL agents designated as brand inspectors are accused of conducting illegal searches and seizures of bottles against the threat of arrest and incarceration over the illegal possession of the bottle at the centre of the dispute.
The suit between EABL and Keroche Breweries over the 500ml Euro bottle will be heard on March 10, 2020.
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