Watchdog launches wide review of alcohol marketing rules

Banning marketing that causes serious or widespread offence and increasing protection for vulnerable people are two of the proposals being put forward in an ambitious new review of the industry’s marketing regulation code.

The Portman Group, which regulates the promotion and packaging of alcoholic drinks sold or marketed in the UK, has launched a fifth review of its Code of Practice to keep it responsive to changing trends. The consultation is seeking views from producers, retailers, public health professionals, charities and other interested parties on changes to the Code to reflect industry challenges.

The consultation will be looking for opinions on changes to the Code of Practice on the Naming, Packaging and Promotion of Alcoholic Drinks with a focus on these key areas:

· Increasing powers to rule against marketing that implies alcohol consumption will change mood or behaviour;
· How to establish a new definition around what constitutes immoderate consumption following the change in the Chief Medical Officers’ guidance from daily to weekly units;
· Increasing protection for those that are socially and mentally vulnerable;
· Prohibiting direct or indirect links with alcohol and illegal activity;
· Introducing a new rule on offence to clamp down on issues such as sexism in labelling and marketing.

The consultation is also asking for opinions and ideas on other areas impacting the industry. This includes the impact of technological change and patterns of consumer engagement in the UK’s evolving marketing landscape.

Commenting on the review, John Timothy, Chief Executive of the Portman Group, said:
“While the guiding principles of the Code remain the same, it is not a rigid document set in stone. For industry self-regulation to be effective, it is crucial that the Code evolves to address new issues and challenges. I would urge all interested parties to respond to the consultation so we can get this right.”

This will be the fifth review of the Portman Group Code since it was first introduced in 1996 and will result in the introduction of the sixth edition of the Code in Spring 2019. Alcohol marketing in the UK is governed through a system of co-regulation between the Advertising Standards Authority, Ofcom and the Portman Group. The proposed changes are an effort to further align the Code with existing regulations, cultural change and industry innovation.

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