The Swedish Consumer Ombudsman (CO) has during the last years reviewed randomly selected packages and labels of alcoholic beverages sold in Sweden.

One distributor had for some time been selling their “bag-in-box” wines in packages designed in the shape of handbags and cottages. The CO considered that these packages did not comply with the requirement of particular moderation under the Swedish Alcohol Act. The CO brought action against the distributor before the Swedish Patent and Market Court (PMC) claiming that the distributor should be prohibited from marketing such packages.

The requirement of particular moderation means that marketing must not, in itself, be intrusive, targeting or in any way encourage alcohol consumption. When assessing whether marketing is consistent with the moderation requirement, the marketing’s details, style and layout is taken into consideration. The decisive factor of such an assessment is how the marketing is perceived by the average consumer.

In June 2018, the PMC delivered a judgment which held that the packages breached the requirement of particular moderation. The PMC found that the packages stood out in comparison to other assortment of alcoholic beverages available at Systembolaget, the Swedish monopoly retail store. Moreover, the packages did not have any connection to wine and did not in any way give any indication or information about the characteristics of the wine. In addition, the PMC considered that the concerned packages convey a positive attitude towards alcohol and therefore encourages alcohol consumption.

In the judgment, the PMC confirms that the frameworks for marketing of alcohol in Sweden remains restrictive and that creative attempts to attract consumers generally run a risk of being incompatible with the Swedish Alcohol Act.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.