On the 25th of January 2013 the Belgian minister of health Laurette Onkelinx and different parties from the alcohol industry, the advertisement industry, consumer organizations and hotel, restaurant and café confederations signed the new covenant on advertising and marketing of alcoholic beverages. This self-regulation code existed in Belgium since 2005 but now a few minor changes were made.
Firstly, alcohol is defined as a beverage with an alcoholic strength exceeding 0,5% by volume. Previously the code defined alcohol as beverages containing more than 1,2% alcohol per volume.
Most of the directions in this code are aimed at the content of alcohol advertisements. New is that advertising cannot suggest that alcohol is a necessary condition for a happier daily life or to create a festive atmosphere. In the previous version of the code it was still allowed to show a welcoming atmosphere associated with the use of alcohol in alcohol advertisements.
Concerning the marketing of alcohol, article 5.3 of the former covenant was deleted. This article stated that it is forbidden to sell alcoholic beverages in automatic vending machines next to primary and secondary schools, in premises used by youth clubs and youth movements, and in places where minors gather, unless technical systems prevent young people from buying alcoholic beverages. Since Belgium nowadays has a new law on the serving of alcohol to minors it is now forbidden to sell alcohol in vending machines without an ID control. So article 5.3 of the old covenant becomes useless.
Important and new concerning marketing is that it is now forbidden to distribute or to offer alcoholic beverages for free or at a symbolic price, on public roads. Where in the former code this was limited to minors it now applies to everyone.
The stipulations on media provisions are now specified for minors instead of for children. Also advertising leaflets are included as media in the new code. This means that also advertising leaflets have to include the educational message.
Striking in the new text of the covenant is that digital media are explicitly mentioned. For instance, “advertisement for alcoholic beverages is forbidden in digital media mainly focused on a public of minors”. Also the educational message should be stated clearly and legibly in advertisements via digital media.
The supervision of the covenant is given to the Jury for Ethical Practices in Advertising (JEP), the self-disciplinary body of the advertising industry in Belgium. The new text has added some new sanctions too:
-When the educational message in alcohol advertisements is missing or is not correct a fine of €50 has to be paid to the JEP.
-Recidivism by the advertiser or the disrespect of a decision of the JEP will systematically mean that the advertiser has to ask a prior research of the JEP for his next campaign(s) during a minimum period of 12 month.
The new covenant will be implemented in Belgium on the 25th of April 2013.