This Cerberus of the British consumer, personified by Anne Robinson, aired the vexed question of when
a foreign beer isn’t a foreign beer.
The immediate reaction of the industry seers was that dire consequences were going to flow from this ruling for foreign beers brewed here under licence, and our business was going to have to mind its Ps and Qs as never before when coming up with advertising copy.
Since then the issue seems to have disappeared off the radar although I suspect it may have activate some back-office unscrambling of cherished marketing projects that we shall never hear about.
The actual ASA ruling doesn’t worry me but what does is that there was just one single complaint about the offending advert.
It makes you wonder who this lone complainant could be.
The ASA says it never publishes any complainants’ names unless an obvious commercial interest is involved. How do we know there isn’t, how does anybody know that? Hardly transparent is it?
The single snitch has the potential to do far more devastating damage, however. The licensee of my local was recently threatened with loss of his licence over a noise issue based again on a single complainant. Fortunately, he was able to rebut the charges but why should honest individuals and companies be subjected to this kind of harassment at the whim of one unidentifiable individual?
Of course, the apparatchiks who run these things will say it’s the breach of a code or a law, not the number of people who complain about it that matters. These people should start living in the real world.
The truth is that if an advert is really offensive or misleading or when a licensed premises really causes a nuisance there are always enough people out there to complain. And so they should: that’s democracy. One anonymous informer, on the other hand, smacks of autocracy.
Maybe the answer is to legislate that if a complaint is not upheld, as it was in the case of my favourite host, the complainant should be made to fund the full cost of the proceedings.
That would serve to discourage the informers among us.