A significant part of the editorial content of Gourmet magazine not surprisingly devotes itself to fine wines etc
Who: The Stockholm District Court, the ECJ Advocate General and "Gourmet" magazine
When: December 2000
A significant part of the editorial content of "Gourmet" magazine not surprisingly devotes itself to fine wines etc. The magazine is available in Sweden on subscription only and in amongst editorial focusing on alcoholic drinks, the issue in question carried, predictably enough, booze ads.
The proceedings here arose out of the prosecution of those involved in Gourmet's publication for offending against the Swedish Law 1978: 763. This law bans the advertising of alcoholic drinks unless they contain a negligible alcohol level. The Stockholm District Court did not convict, feeling it ought to refer fundamental aspects of the case to the European Court of Justice. In particular, on the face of it the ban amounted to a clear restriction on the free movement of advertising services between EU member states, given that such bans did not obtain in most other parts of the Union (except France for instance). EC law states that such restrictions may only be justifiable on specified grounds such as public health.
The ECJ Advocate General handed down his Opinion in December 2000. This finding is not binding on the Court, but in most cases the ECJ's judges follow the Opinion in the judgement which they pronounce a few months later.
Advocate General Jacobs held that the Swedish ban could only be upheld if its aim, namely the protection of people against the dangers of excessive alcohol consumption, could not be achieved by less restrictive measures. The case in point clearly demonstrated that the ban was, in Advocate General Jacobs' view, in excess of what was required, by preventing advertising in a magazine which lawfully specialised in talking about alcoholic beverages.
Why this matters:
If this Opinion is upheld by the European Court of Justice it could be of enormous significance. France's Loi Evin forbids most advertising of alcoholic drinks and it is difficult to see how it could be enforced by the French Courts in the teeth of a pro-Gourmet judgment by the ECJ. How fitting that a publication celebrating the innocent pleasures of sensible imbibing should have brought us to this potentially momentous point in the history of European advertising jurisprudence!