Company: Greene King Brewing Company
Breach: Yes
Final Decision: 28 May 2009

Considered under the 4th Edition of the Code.

Complaint Summary

“Joe goes into the pub for a couple of pints! He is told that he can have a fourth one free. I believe this is an unacceptable encouragement leading him to drink more than he might. After he has had his 2 pints he thinks I’m only 1 off reaching my free pint so I’ll have the 3rd and then I can utilise the 4th….

I have nothing against the promotion of beer with reduction in prices but this is not the same. The offer depends and is linked to consumption and dents the aspiration of responsible drinking.”


Member of the Public


Under Code paragraph 3.2(f)

A drink, its packaging and any promotional material or activity should not in any direct or indirect way encourage illegal, irresponsible or immoderate consumption, such as drink-driving, binge-drinking or drunkenness.


The company’s submission

The company explained that the promotion had been undertaken in January in association with 400 Greene King pubs and would have lasted for no more than 2 weeks in participating outlets. The promotion mechanic required consumers to buy three pints from a range of Greene King beers in order to receive a fourth pint free of charge. The consumer was given a collector card on which they were required to obtain a member of staff’s signature as proof of purchase of each of the three pints in order to claim their free pint. This allowed the consumer to spread their participation in the promotion over the course of three, or indeed four, visits to the pub.

The company said that when they ran such promotions, they normally included a standard condition stating “A maximum of two signatures can be obtained per person per session”; they provided examples of previous promotional material to demonstrate that this was the case. On this occasion, they inadvertently omitted to include this condition on promotional material. They nonetheless maintained that this did not cause the promotion to be irresponsible and that they would encourage and expect participating licensees to observe the law and not serve anyone who was drunk.

The Panel’s assessment

The Panel recognised the concern over on-trade promotions offering an incentive to purchase extra volume of alcohol. It noted, however, that the collector-card mechanic of this promotion meant that a consumer was not compelled to purchase and/or consume an excessive volume of alcohol in a single session. It further noted that there was nothing in the presentation of the promotion to encourage or imply immoderate consumption. The Panel considered that it would have been preferable for the terms and conditions to have included a restriction on the number of qualifying purchases per person per day.

The Panel also considered, however, that consumers should take a degree of personal responsibility for their own drinking behaviour and therefore decided, despite the omission of the condition, that the promotion and its presentation were not encouraging immoderate consumption. It accordingly did not uphold the complaint.

Action by Company

None required.