The complaint, which related to a Budweiser promotion during last year’s soccer World Cup finals, was made by Heineken Ireland.
A similar complaint from a member of the public relating to the same promotion by the Odeon Bar in Dublin’ s Harcourt Street was also upheld by the Independent Complaints Panel.
Heineken Ireland alleged that the Diageo Ireland promotion “which involves purchasing three pints of Budweiser Ice Cold to receive an extra pint free” contravened the MEAS Code.
The complainant claimed that the promotion contravened a number of provisions of the Code in that it could “encourage or reward the purchase or drinking of large quantities of alcohol in a single session” or it could “encourage either an excessive drinking session or a pub-crawl” or could “encourage ‘round-buying”.
MEAS Guidance Notes on Point of Sale Promotions and Materials and Serving of Multiple Drinks state that, “promotions that involve buying an alcoholic product to get another free or promotions offering two alcoholic products for the price of one” contravene the Code, as do promotions that “encourage either an excessive drinking session or a pub-crawl”, or “promotions that encourage ‘round-buying’”.
The Panel noted points made by Diageo Ireland that the promotion was carefully designed so as to be in compliance with the letter and spirit of the MEAS Code and that it was intended to provide a value offer for consumers against a backdrop of difficult economic times.
It also noted that Diageo Ireland had stipulated that “two offers only were available per group of four per day” and that this was intended to ensure that no one customer would drink more than two pints within a group of four people and that the promotional mechanic for the offer was communicated to all bar managers and owners.
In relation to the Odeon Bar complaint, the Panel noted the allegation by the complainant that the two-offer limitation was not implemented and the Odeon Bar representative’s comment that “all that can be done to monitor and manage this promotion has been done”.
While sympathetic to the motivation behind the promotion as a value offering to consumers in the on-trade setting during difficult economic times as outlined by the Diageo Ireland representative, the Panel concluded that the promotion was likely to encourage round buying and was therefore in breach of the MEAS Code.