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Victory for the Evin law, the Court of Cassation reaffirms the limits of advertising for alcohol brands

In a decision from 20 May 2020, the Court of Cassation reassured the defenders of public health and the Evin law, of which ANPAA is a member, by sanctioning the Phénix de Grimbergen advertisement.

While the Paris Court of Appeal had paved the way for extensive interpretations of the law, the Court of Cassation recalled that advertising for alcoholic beverages must remain informative and objective as to the characteristics of the product.

Let us recall the facts: in February 2017, the Tribunal de Grande Instance (TGI) of Paris had condemned advertisements on the Grimbergen beer website following the action launched by ANPAA. According to the judge, the reference in the advertising films to the Game of Thrones series had nothing to do with the production methods or the regions of origin, but promoted the consumption of that drink among a young public. The association of the drink with the Phoenix, a legendary animal endowed with exceptional powers, also exceeded what the Evin Act allows in an advertisement, namely essentially the objective characteristics of the product.

The Court of First Instance relied on a faithful reading of the Evin Act. All the points raised by ANPAA were condemned. But in December 2018, the Court of Appeal reversed this decision by introducing a distinction among the various limiting themes that can be evoked in an alcohol advertisement. The Court of Appeal thus considered that the origin of the product, its name or its composition could be approached in a hyperbolic way, leaving room for the creativity of the designers of advertising messages. The Court of Appeal had also held that only advertising that incites excessive alcohol consumption is illegal.

In its ruling of principle of 20 May, the Court of Cassation overturned the decision of the Court of Appeal and legitimised the strict application of the most extensive public health law in France.

The Evin law aims to protect young people from advertising that contributes to making alcohol attractive and to trivializing its consumption. The wording of the judgment, by restrictively describing the authorised content, makes it possible to achieve these objectives.

 While the notion of objective description had already been addressed by the Court of Cassation, the major novelty of this decision is to affirm the principle of alcohol advertising with a strictly informative purpose. In this, the Court is in line with the spirit and the letter of the text as it was read in the preparatory work for the law.

ANPAA and the defence of the Evin Act

ANPAA is today the only organisation in France that enforces the alcohol component of the Evin law. In 29 years of application, 78 cases have been judged. In 85% of the cases, the illegality of the facts has been proven. The ANPAA thus makes it possible to set limits on the marketing practices of alcohol producers, who are incapable of self-regulation. By prohibiting illegal campaigns, the ANPAA contributes to building up a body of case law that serves as a reference to guarantee a favourable environment for health. To carry out this mission, ANPAA organizes a watch on advertising and relies on its elected representatives, volunteers and partners. ANPAA has undertaken 7 new actions in 2019, mainly for advertisements on social networks, the media of choice for the youngest.

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