/ Advertising and Labeling of Alcoholic Beverages: On the Verge of a New Law

July 27, 2021

Felipe Von Unger
Associate Attorney Alessandri

Commercial advertising has been gaining legal importance not only from the point of view of the protection of consumer freedom, but also as an area from where behaviors deemed desirable by the authority are promoted (or the contrary are inhibited). Thus, if a food product, for example, has a lot of added sugar, its advertisement will not only be prohibited in certain spaces, for contravening a certain idea of good, but will have to comply with specific regulations that include, among other things, the insertion of messages aimed at moderating its consumption or, eventually, at avoiding it.

Consequently, risk management is no longer just a matter of guarding against misleading, abusive or unfair advertising, but also involves the detailed study of the rules governing the advertising -which for these purposes includes the labeling- of certain products, given their special nature.

Paradigmatic examples of this are “high in” foods, cigarettes and soon, alcoholic beverages will be included in the list, by virtue of the bill that is already in its last procedural stages in the National Congress (Bulletin 4192-11), after its recent dispatch by the Senate, in its last procedure stage.

This bill, a parliamentary initiative, follows with respect to alcoholic beverages the same logic that can be recognized in other laws in force that have come to regulate the advertising and labeling of other mass consumption products. In strictly advertising matters, it will restrict the broadcasting schedules of alcoholic beverages both on television and radio, and will also require the inclusion of legends alluding to the potential harmful effect of their consumption, both on radio and television and in any graphic or advertising action that is disseminated through written media, posters or advertisements of any kind, whether physical or virtual.

Likewise, with its entry into force, the bill will prohibit any type of advertising in activities, articles or promotional objects linked to all kinds of sports activities, except, in the case of the former, those made in the framework of “mega events” held in Chile, preventing at the same time the use of commercial hooks and any form of advertising aimed exclusively at minors.

In relation to the labeling of alcoholic beverages, the bill will require the inclusion, by the producer, manufacturer or importer, as appropriate, of messages and graphic prints warning about the possible consequences of its consumption, especially for certain population at risk (e.g., minors and pregnant women). As can also be seen, for example, in the rules applicable to the marketing of cigarettes, these messages shall have to meet certain conditions of size and legibility. Finally, the labeling of alcoholic beverages will also have to show the amount of energy present in them.

A large part of the industry is already operating under standards similar to those proposed by this bill, which is about to become law. It does so either voluntarily, or obliged by special local regulations (for example, those of the National Television Council) or by imposition of regulations -mainly labeling regulations- in force in destination countries or in the countries of origin of products that are then marketed locally. Notwithstanding the above, the trend is towards the intensification of the regulation of advertising space in pursuit of certain social goods. It remains to be seen whether this new set of obligations generates any change in consumer behavior and, if anything, in the producers themselves, who may find certain incentives to compete on the basis of attributes, for example, calories, which have not been fully exploited so far in our alcoholic beverages market.