Frequently Asked Questions

What is the ABAC Scheme?

The ABAC Scheme is the short title for the centrepiece of Australia’s system of alcohol marketing regulation. Australia has a quasi‐regulatory system of alcohol marketing regulation. Marketing guidelines have been negotiated with government and complaints are handled independently. Industry bears all costs of administering the ABAC Scheme.

What is the ABAC Responsible Alcohol Marketing Code?

The ABAC Responsible Alcohol Marketing Code outlines the standards for alcohol marketing in Australia.

Where can I find a copy of the Code?

The Code, and a range of other useful information, can be found here.

What types of marketing are covered by the ABAC Scheme?

The ABAC Scheme applies to print, billboard, digital, cinema, television, producer point of sale,  radio, packaging and other marketing.

Who funds the ABAC Scheme?

The ABAC Scheme is jointly funded by the Brewers Association of Australia, the Distilled Spirits Industry Council of Australia and the Winemakers Federation of Australia. Direct signatories and users of the AAPS pre-vetting service also contribute to the funding of the scheme.

Who manages the ABAC Scheme?

The Scheme is governed by a Management Committee comprised of representatives from the Brewers Association of Australia, Winemakers Federation of Australia, Distilled Spirits Industry Council of Australia, The Communications Council, and a government representative.

When was the ABAC Scheme created?

The ABAC Scheme came into operation on 1 July 1998.

Can anybody complain about alcohol marketing?

Yes. Complaints can be lodged on a confidential basis.

How are complaints lodged?

All complaints must be lodged through the Advertising Standards Bureau.

How are complaints adjudicated?

When a complaint is received it is sent to the Chief Adjudicator of the ABAC Scheme,  the Hon Michael Lavarch, who may refer the complaint to the full Adjudication Panel for a determination. Adjudications are overseen by a five‐member panel and each adjudication decision must be undertaken by at least three Adjudicators. The ABAC Adjudication Panel is independent of the alcohol industry.

Are adjudication decisions made public?

Yes. Past adjudication decisions are available here.

As an advertiser, how do I know if my marketing complies with the Code?

The ABAC Scheme Management Committee recommends that all proposed marketing is initially checked against the provisions of the Code, which can be found here. This website also contains guidance notes to assist in the interpretation of the Code. It is recommended that you read past adjudication decisions to familiarise yourself with issues that have attracted complaints in the past.

The ABAC Scheme also offers advertisers a confidential, user‐pays pre‐vetting service where proposed marketing can be assessed against the provisions of the code by experienced pre‐vetters in the early stages of campaign development. This pre‐vetting service cannot ‘guarantee’ that a marketing communication will not generate a complaint, nor the outcome of any complaints.

How do I access the alcohol marketing pre‐vetting service?

Information and contact details for the pre‐vetting service are available here.

Pre-vetting assists alcohol marketers to meet the ABAC Code standards and also prevents marketing that does not meet those standards from reaching the market.

Is the ABAC Responsible Alcohol Marketing Code the only set of rules my marketing must comply with?

No. There are other rules affecting marketing in Australia, including:

  • Australian Competition and Consumer legislation ;
  • Australian Association of National Advertisers Code of Ethics;
  • Commercial Television Industry Code of Practice;
  • Commercial Radio Codes of Practice; and
  • Outdoor Media Association Code of Ethics and alcohol guidelines.

 What happens if my marketing is complained against?

If the nature of the complaint is relevant to the ABAC Responsible Alcohol Marketing Code, the complaint will be examined by the ABAC Adjudication Panel, although the complaint can also be considered by the Advertising Standards Board for co‐existing issues outside of ABAC.  Marketers may be asked to provide the Panel with copies of the relevant marketing communication, and will be provided with the opportunity to provide the Panel with a response to the complaint. If the complaint is upheld, the Panel advises the marketer of the decision and the marketer or its agency must modify, remove or discontinue the marketing within five (5) business days or in the case of packaging or marketing collateral  immediately cease further orders.

Does the Adjudication Panel examine issues that are not detailed in a complaint?

No. The Adjudication Panel will only examine the issue(s) raised by the complainant. Separate complaints raising different issues will be adjudicated individually.

Do Adjudication Panel decisions align with community expectations?

Yes.  The Adjudication Panel applies the "reasonable person" test when considering a marketing communication against the ABAC Code.  Community Standards Research by Colmar Brunton has found that the Panel meets community expectations of alcohol marketing and is generally more conservative than the community reflecting the high standards set by the Code for alcohol marketing in Australia.