First annual report of the Ethics Council of the Alcoholic Beverage Industry in Quebec: Beyond the complaints, a call for change

    MONTREAL, March 5 /CNW Telbec/ - The Ethics Council of the Alcoholic
Beverage Industry in Quebec made public this morning its first annual report
on the practices of industry members with respect to the communication,
marketing and promotion of alcohol.
    A total of 176 individuals and organizations contacted the Ethics Council
in 2007. In most cases, complaints were filed against businesses and primarily
involved advertising or promotional activities.
    "It is a credit to the industry that it has voluntarily adopted a code of
ethics to better control its practices. In doing so, it has chosen to set
guidelines and basic values for itself that must be respected," stated Claude
Béland, Chairman of the Ethics Council. "The Council is also pleased that
almost the whole industry has adhered to the code and that for the most part
the Council's proposal to consider a change in practices has been well
received," he continued.
    The Council understands that ethics are not cast-in-concrete social
standards to which the entire population spontaneously adheres. It knows, for
example, that social tolerance thresholds can vary according to age, culture,
region and status. It is against this unique backdrop that the Council
interprets its code and reviews complaints from Quebecers unhappy with
advertisements for alcohol products or commercial practices of industry


    More than 80 of the complaints filed specifically targeted breweries.
Most involved the sexist slant of certain advertisements and messages
encouraging excessive consumption. The Council contacted the brewers concerned
to advise them of its opinion, and it proposed meetings to discuss the sales
pitches used. To date, these invitations have been declined.
    With respect to the complaints filed against bars, nine related to either
sexism or promotional practices encouraging excessive consumption. In many
cases, the Council's intervention brought about an end to the situation that
had triggered the complaint.
    Four complaints were filed against the SAQ, of which just two were
retained by the Council, which met with the SAQ to discuss its promotions and
their results and effects. Both the Council and the SAQ benefited from these
discussions, which led to an examination of promotions that the Council in
turn shared with all of its members. The Council also suggested that the SAQ
examine its promotion of the least expensive products in each category.
    In approximately 40 cases, the complaints received did not target a
specific message or promotion but rather denounced the sexism prevalent in the
advertisements of certain companies.

    Missing the call

    The Ethics Council regrets the refusal by brewers to adopt the industry's
code of ethics, particularly given that this group received the highest number
of complaints and in doing so generated the most interventions by the Council.
    However, because the Council promotes dialogue, it has chosen not to
condemn the brewers. Instead, it has decided to try to convince them to change
their practices, and it hopes that they will soon join those in the industry
who adhere to the code of ethics.

    Created in 2006, the Ethics Council of the Alcoholic Beverage Industry in
Quebec is a self-regulating organization whose mandate is to oversee the
application of a code of ethics established by distillers, wine and cider
producers, promotional agents, and the Société des alcools du Québec. This
code has been adopted by restaurant associations and chains and the owners of
bars, taverns and brasseries.

    If a business fails to comply with the code of ethics, it is asked to
review its practices according to a protocol and within a time limit
established by the Council. By complying with the Council's request, the
business avoids a public reprimand. In the case of non-compliance or a repeat
code infringement, the Council is free to publicize the brand and activities
concerned, using much the same approach as that taken by the Quebec Press

    Anyone wishing to file a complaint with the Ethics Council may do so by
filling in the complaint form found on the Educ'alcool Web site
( - Code of Ethics), by sending an e-mail to, or by requesting a complaint form by calling

For further information:

For further information: and interviews: Sarah-Emilie Bouchard, (514)
395-0375, ext. 229, (514) 250-7595,; Source: Ethics
Council of the Alcoholic Beverage Industry in Quebec

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