An updated Advertising Code for Alcoholic Beverages has come into force in the Netherlands. Drinks brands are banned from all sports articles and ringtones, whilst booze website visitors must key in their age rather than tick to confirm they are 18. Willem Leppink and Ady van Nieuwenhuizen of Rotterdam law firm and Osborne Clarke Alliance member Ploum Lodder Princen send a temperate report.


Topic: Alcohol

Who: Dutch Advertising Code for Alcoholic Beverages and STIVA (Dutch foundation for responsible alcohol consumption).

Where: The Netherlands

When: As from 1st October 2009

Law stated as at: 31 January 2010

What happened:

The Advertising Code for Alcoholic Beverages, a special part of the Dutch Advertising Code, celebrated its 30th anniversary last year and was renewed, so that since October 1, 2009, the new Advertising Code for Alcoholic beverages has been in force.

Changes in the Code

The new Code has been tightened up with respect to minors, sports equipment and social and sexual success.

Alcohol consumption and social and sexual success

The new Code states that advertising is not permitted to suggest that alcohol would contribute to increasing social and sexual success. The new Code contains, besides this general prohibition, also a non-exhaustive list of some situations in advertising that are prohibited by definition. Ads in which a person is offered a job or a promotion at work because of the consumption of alcohol, are forbidden. Also ads in which people are successful in hitting it off with someone in a bar or a club as a direct result of alcohol consumption are forbidden. “Before and after” sequences are also out.

Minors and alcohol

Websites, where the brand of an alcoholic beverage is also part of the domain name, are obliged to have a comprehensive ‘age check’ on their homepage. For the first time this check must require visitors to key in their own date of birth. The new Code also contains a list of youth magazines in which advertising for alcoholic beverages is not allowed. In addition, alcohol ads on youth channels and ring tones are now specifically forbidden.

Alcohol and sport

The former version of the Code already contained a ban on advertising of alcoholic drinks on apparel of an individual athlete or sports team. This ban has now been extended in the sense that under the new Code, advertisements for alcohol on sports equipment, such as sticks and balls, is forbidden.

Why this matters:

As noted, this new Code came into force on October 1, 2009. For some new provisions in the Code there exists a longer transitional period. After the transition period, all advertising should be in line with the relevant provisions. If this is not the case, the advertiser risks a complaint by the Dutch Advertising Code Committee.

Producers and importers of beer, wine and spirits, united in the Foundation for Responsible Alcohol Consumption (STIVA), make their contribution to the self-regulation in advertising for alcohol. According to STIVA the new Code is not only stronger but also clearer and more workable.

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