France has some of Europe's most stringent laws covering alcohol and tobacco promotion and advertising. Since the passing of the so-called Loi Evin - Evin's Law - of 1991, wine or spirits may not be advertised in cinemas or on TV and may not appear in sports sponsorship. Furthermore, alcohol advertising must be purely informative and must not evoke associations with partying, socialising or humour. Until 2009 all internet alcohol advertising was banned. Since then it has been restricted to sites that are neither aimed at young people nor involving sport and exercise. Like print advertising online ads have to carry the legal notice "Alcohol abuse is harmful, consume only in moderation".
The new court ruling concerns 37 posts by 20 different influencers, with a collective following of over 5m followers. The posts included a series of photos by influencer Renan Pacheco (over 600,000 followers) showing him holding a cocktail and the bottle of spirits used to make it. He also mentioned the brand.
The lawsuit was initiated by Association Addictions France', France's leading body dedicated to combating the risks and damage associated with addictive behaviour. The association which has 1,500 employees claims to haves been contacting various influencers for 18 months to ask them to remove or change posts. Some, they said, were are cooperative, others were not. It was these at whom the legal action was aimed. Franck Lecas, the lawyer acting for the association stressed to BFM TV that they do not primarily want to affect influencers focused on food and cooking, but on "more general influencers" who have a large and young audience.
In a press release, Addictions France described a "historic victory against the online sponsorship of alcohol". According to the judgement, Meta also has to pass on the personal data of the influencers concerned to the association. For its part, Meta says it has enforced the court-ordered deletions, but stresses that the ruling is not final, as an appeal process has begun.
This case may remind some of another court decision: in December 2022, the Association Addictions France had an alcohol advertising campaign by the FIFA sponsor AB Inbev banned. The objections included the word "Buuuuuud", large-scale advertising on trams, as well as the close link between the brand and the soccer World Cup, all of which was considered in violation of the Loi Evin.
It is not yet clear which rules will apply to influencers in the future. The French Ministry of Economy is pushing for more transparency. The public was asked to comment in an online hearing in January 2023.