Friday, 18 January 2008

Heineken Ordered to Stop Advertising on its Website

High Court of First Instance of Paris, Summary Order, 8 January 2008, ANPAA v. Heineken

The National Association for the Prevention of Alcoholism and Addiction (ANPAA) brought a case before the President of the High Court of First Instance of Paris against Heineken, claiming that the advertisement for its beer on its website is illegal. It argued that Article L.3323-2 of the Public Health Code does not allow advertisement for alcohol on a website. Indeed, Article L.3323-2 sets out a restrictive list of types of media on which publicity for alcohol is permitted. In particular, advertising may be carried out in the written press (except for the press intended for youth), through sound broadcasting (a decree sets the radio stations that are authorized to broadcast and at what time), by way of posters, signs and objects in certain shops/stores, in the conditions set by a decree… But the law does not mention websites.

Moreover, the association claimed that, by offering attractive elements on its site, such as games and sound animations, Heineken crossed the boundaries set out by Article L.3323-4 of the Public Health Code, which provides that authorized adverts for alcohol may not mention anything other than factual information, such as the percentage of alcohol, the origin, the name, the ingredients etc.

The President, in his summary order, considered that the advertisement carried out by Heineken through the broadcasting of electronic messages on the website, uses a media that is not on the restrictive list provided by Article L.3323-2 of the Public Health Code. He therefore ordered Heineken to remove all messages within 3 weeks following the notification of the decision, with a 3.000 euros daily fine for delay in performance.

This decision could have serious consequences for companies that sell wine and other types of alcohol on their websites. Heineken has lodged an appeal against this summary ruling.