The Swedish Government authorities recently initiated the last step in IOGT-NTO’s article 4 AVMSD complaint from 2011 about alcohol advertising broadcasting into Sweden from the UK in order to avoid the Swedish alcohol advertising ban. On 31 of October Swedish authorities submitted a notification to the European Commission outlining that they want to take measures against the broadcasting companies in question. The Commission has until 1 February 2018 to decide whether or not Swedish authorities have the right to fine the companies for breaking Swedish law or not. If the Commission says yes it would effectively stop alcohol commercials on Swedish television and serve as precedence for similar cases in the future.
Alcohol advertising has always been banned on Swedish television. However, there has since the 80’s/90’s been significant amounts of alcohol marketing coming into Sweden from channels broadcasting from abroad (but in Swedish, with Swedish programmes and Swedish targeted advertising). Because of the country-of-origin principle, Swedish authorities have not been able to enforce these laws.
Coming into force in 2011, the AVMSD added article 4, intended to combat abuse of the country-of-origin principle, such as the case described above. IOGT-NTO launched a complaint straight away and, since then, the Swedish broadcasting authority together with the Swedish consumer protection authority have been taking the complaint forward, following the steps required by article 4.
The final step in the process is for the Swedish authorities to submit a notification to the European Commission stating what measures the authorities want to take and proving that the requisites for applying article 4 are fulfilled. The measures in this case means applying Swedish law to the two broadcasters in question. The consequence of breaking Swedish alcohol advertising law by broadcasting alcohol advertisements, sponsorship or product placements is a fine. Once the notification is submitted, the European Commission has three months to respond whether or not the measures are compatible with Union law and the requisites of the AVMS-Directive.
Where is the case now?
The Swedish Authorities sent in the final notification on 31 October 2017. This means that the Commission has until 1 February 2018 to respond with a decision on whether or not all the requisites are fulfilled for applying the desired measures (in this case, applying the Swedish alcohol marketing law to the two channels in question).
Why is the case important for health?
The AVMSD sets out minimum rules with regard to alcohol advertising but states that Member States are free to adopt stricter regulation. For public health reasons, Sweden has stricter rules, yet these rules are circumvented. It has indisputably been established that exposure to alcohol marketing, especially for minors, has a negative effect on drinking behaviour, and thus public health, by increasing the amount of alcohol consumed by minors and making minors start to drink alcohol earlier.1
For more information: contact Kalle Dramstad (firstname.lastname@example.org).
1 Anderson, P., Foxcroft, D. R., Kaner, E., Martinic, M., Moskalewicz, J., & Nociar, A. (2009). Does marketing communication impact on the volume and patterns of consumption of alcoholic beverages, especially by young people? A review of longitudinal studies. In Scientific Opinion of the Science Group of the European Alcohol and Health Forum.