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FRANCE: Alcohol co's still awaiting internet ad ban lift

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A ban on alcoholic drinks promotion on the internet in France remains in force, because a new law to legalise adverts and drinks websites has not been signed off.

Drinks firms were celebrating earlier this summer, after France's Senate legalised the promotion of alcoholic drinks on the internet.

However, three months later, companies are still waiting for the Government to implement the new law.

The Courvoisier website remains blocked to all consumers who say they are living in France, even if they are of legal age.

"It's a crazy situation," said Jean Marc Olivier, outgoing managing director of Cognac group Courvoisier. "If you put that you are in France, it says that because of the law you cannot access the site."

Heineken's French website, heineken.fr, also remains down and has been offline for 18 months.

The problem began when a Paris court ruled in early 2008 that online drinks promotions, including company websites, were illegal.

The court agreed with the National Association for the Prevention of Alcoholism and Addiction, which argued that online promotions were illegal because when France drew up its law on alcohol promotion, the Loi Evin, the internet did not exist.

Technically, promotions are now legal, excluding sports websites and sites aimed at young people under the legal drinking age.

"The situation has settled down, compared to last year," said Julien Pichoff, co-founder of the Vin & Internet group, which was created to fight for drinks firms' rights on the internet.

"There has been no legal challenge to the new law," he told just-drinks, but added that it may take up to a year for the law to be implemented.

Pichoff said that there have been no calls for a minimum price on alcoholic drinks in France, or a total ban on advertising, unlike in the UK.

However, it is already illegal for retailers to sell products 'below cost' in France and all drinks sold in the country must carry warnings for pregnant women.

Last week, Pernod Ricard CEO Pierre Pringuet said that education on alcohol should begin at home. "Parents must educate their children, that is the first responsibility," he said at the firm's results conference in London.

Pernod works with other industry players to run responsible drinking programmes "in many countries", he added.


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