A recent complaint about Purity Brewing’s product, Lawless, was upheld by the Independent Complaints Panel. A copy of the full decision is available here.

Each time a new Code of Practice on the Naming, Packaging and Promotion of Alcoholic Drinks is introduced, the Portman Group commissions an independent audit of the market to measure compliance. In 2019, the Portman Group introduced the sixth edition of the Code of Practice and commissioned Zenith Global to carry out an audit of 500 products which were randomly selected from the market, and they considered Lawless to be problematic so it was brought to the Panel to assess. The full audit report is due to be published in spring 2020.

During the audit, Zenith Global expressed concern that the product name created a link to illegal behaviour and this link was strengthened by the text on the back of the can which referenced ‘Lawless is a maverick beer’ and ‘is a law unto itself’.

The Panel believed the product name ‘Lawless’ was inherently problematic and the complaint was upheld under Code paragraph:

  • 2(b): A drink, its packaging and any promotional material or activity should not in any direct or indirect way suggest any association with bravado, or with violent, aggressive, dangerous, anti-social or illegal behaviour

Reviewing the product in detail, the Panel noted:

  • The name ‘Lawless’ was inherently problematic as it created a direct link to illegal behaviour.
  • The description on the back of the can which positioned the beer as ‘maverick’ was not problematic in itself, as to be a maverick or breaking the mould was not the same as breaking the law. However, this was not enough to prevent the name ‘Lawless’ from being seen as a reference to illegal behaviour.
  • The producers were a small company challenging the established order in their industry and the Panel understood that they intended to convey that spirit.

Commenting on the decision the Chair of the Independent Complaints Panel, Jenny Watson, said:

“After considering all the arguments put forward by the producer, the Panel decided that ‘Lawless’ was fundamentally incompatible with the rule that alcohol products should not suggest any association with illegal behaviour. The Panel’s concern was about the product name alone. We acknowledged that the Code breach was unintentional but it could not be justifiable through the contextualisation on the can given the nature of the Code.”