Frequently Asked Questions

What is the ABAC Scheme?

The ABAC Scheme is the centrepiece of Australia’s 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 sets key standards for the responsible content and placement of alcohol marketing in Australia.

Where can I find a copy of the Code?

The Code can be found here.

What types of marketing are covered by the ABAC Scheme?

The ABAC Scheme applies to print, outdoor, digital, social media, cinema, television, producer point of sale,  radio, packaging, product placement, brand extensions, marketing collateral and other marketing.

Who funds the ABAC Scheme?

The ABAC Scheme is jointly funded by the Brewers Association of Australia, Spirits & Cocktails Australia and Australian Grape & Wine. Direct signatories and users of the ABAC 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, Australian Grape & Wine, Spirits & Cocktails Australia, Advertising Council Australia, and a government representative.  The Management Committee is led by an independent Chairperson.

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 by anyone on a confidential basis.

How are complaints lodged?

All complaints must be lodged through Ad Standards.

How are complaints adjudicated?

When a complaint is received it is sent to the Chief Adjudicator of the ABAC Adjudication Panel,  Professor the Hon Michael Lavarch, who refers all complaints that raise ABAC Code issues and have not already been considered or consistently dismissed to the full Adjudication Panel for a determination. Adjudications are overseen by a panel of three adjudicators that always includes an Adjudicator with Public Health expertise. 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 Management Committee recommends that all proposed marketing is initially checked internally against:

  • the provisions of the ABAC Code;
  • guidance notes to assist in the interpretation of the Code; and
  • 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 from the early stages of campaign development. The pre‐vetting service cannot, however, ‘guarantee’ that a marketing communication will not generate a complaint, nor the outcome of any complaints.

How do I access the ABAC pre‐vetting service?

Information about the pre‐vetting service is available here.

Pre-vetting assists alcohol marketers to meet the ABAC Code standards and 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;
  • State Liquor Licensing legislation and promotional guidelines;
  • Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code labelling requirements;
  • 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, Alcohol Policy and Placement Policy.

 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 Ad Standards 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 and modify the material within 3 months.

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 has found that the Panel is generally consistent with community expectations of alcohol marketing and is slightly more conservative than the community reflecting the high standards set by the Code for alcohol marketing in Australia.