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‘We won’t be pushed around by the alcohol industry’: Australian ads review board

By Ben Bouckley , 09-Jul-2012
Last updated on 10-Jul-2012 at 13:32 GMT

The Australian Association of National Advertisers (AANA) says that the nation’s new ‘independent’ Alcohol Advertising Review Board (AARB) should be scrapped for lack of results.

But the AARB itself – which is funded by the McCusker Centre for Action on Alcohol and the Youth and Cancer Council of Western Australia – has hit back, saying it will not bow to industry pressure.

The AARB said in a statement that, four months after the AARB was established as (in the former's words) a “so called” independent alternative to industry self regulation, it had yet to deliver a single determination.

Speedy complaint handling...

This was despite the AARB’s self-imposed target of 20 working days on average for handling of complaints, according to the AANA.

The association noted that, in the same four month period, the industry-funded Alcohol Beverages Advertising Code Scheme (ABACS) delivered 10 determinations and upheld four complaints.

Alina Bain, AANA director of codes, policy and regulatory affairs, said that there were already regulatory protections regarding messaging and placement of alcohol advertising that gave responses to consumer complaints within 30 days.

“The AARB purported to provide an alternative complaints mechanism, but has failed to deliver a consumer benefit,” Bain said.

She added that AARB spokesman, Professor Mike Daube, professor of health policy at Curtin University, had said the AARB was “working to their own timelines, not the drinks industry’s”.

Bain said this confirmed that the body was not designed to act as a “genuine complaints handling system for the consumer”, although the AARB uses the same rationale to say precisely the opposite.

As legislator, plaintiff, judge and jury, the AARB had developed its own codes and was adjudicating complaints from within its own ranks, Bain said.

“It flies in the face of established self-regulatory principles, which include independence of code making and adjudication. What’s more it has misled the public as to its purpose,” she added.

The AANA’s basis for this charge is the AARB’s own press release stating that it would offer the consumers the chance “to register their concerns on the basis of sensible codes, processes independent of the drinks industry, and speedy adjudication”.

'Out of control' alcohol advertising

Responding to the AANA’s comments, Daube told the AAP newswire that the body would not be pushed around by advertisers and the alcohol industry.

He said the board’s first report would be released in the coming weeks, and that it had already received more than 70 complaints, with the public attracted to the AARB’s objective status.

The AARB was launched by health campaigners in March to counter what it said was “out of control advertising and marketing of alcohol, which is seeing increasing levels of alcohol-related harm”.

Daube said in March: “The industry-based Alcohol Beverages Advertising Code (ABAC) is absolutely inadequate when it comes to reining in the industry’s promotional activities.

“The code is voluntary, does not cover all forms of advertising or all alcohol advertisers, does not address issues such as placement, and has no powers to penalise advertisers that breach the code. In short, it’s  useless,” he added.

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