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After the Independent Complaints Panel (ICP) has upheld a complaint the producer will have several choices about how to proceed. Most producers will make changes to their packaging to bring it in line with the Code or voluntarily remove it from the UK market. We have worked with producers to amend more than 150 problematic products; but only 7 have received a Retailer Alert Bulletin (RAB) since 2015. We only issue a RAB if the producer chooses not to comply with the decision or fails to respond to correspondence from us relating to the ruling.

A RAB is the Portman Group’s most serious sanction against a product which has breached of our Code. It requests that retailers to cease stocking the product and informs wider groups about the ICP decision.

Why do we issue a RAB?

It is really important to be clear that we never want to issue a RAB. It is the absolute last resort for the Portman Group and is only used in response to a producer who refuses to communicate or comply with the ruling. We are not here to harm business or financially punish those whose products breach the Code. We always seek to work with producers, offering them numerous opportunities during the complaints process to submit redesigns or engage with our Advisory Service.

It is only after a Panel decision has been ignored, or the producer chooses not to comply, that we issue a RAB.  The vast majority of producers either make amendments to the design or withdraw the product from the UK market.

It is a vital part of being an effective regulator that the Independent Complaint Panel makes effective rulings and that non-compliance is not seen as a viable or attractive option. For a self-regulated Code, it is essential we work with the industry for the public interest to help stop the sale of products which bring the industry into disrepute. We believe that it is important for the industry to have strong self-regulation and RABs are an important tool to allow us to sanction products that do not meet the required standards for socially responsible marketing of alcohol.

Issuing a RAB

We issue a RAB to all Code signatories, as well as publishing it through our website, informing people that we have found a product to be in breach of the Code. There are currently more than 130 Code signatories including producers, importers, wholesalers, retailers and trade associations.

We inform Code Signatories about the breach and request that they do not replenish stock after three months of the RAB being published. This ensures retailers are not financially punished for selling a problematic product and gives them ample time to sell through any remaining stock. Retailers who continue to stock a product in receipt of a RAB could be in breach of the Licensing Act which is enforced by Trading Standards.

You can see right an example of a RAB against the product Collagin.

You will notice that we include a name and image of the product, as summary of the decision and when licensees should cease stocking the product.

Though we do not want to punish producers, it is important that for public good and the reputation of the industry that non-compliant products are removed for sale. This is our most effective tool to achieve that, using voluntary action by retailers who wish to uphold socially responsible marketing. Failure to comply with a  nationwide scheme of industry self-regulation cannot be allowed to pass without repercussions for those deemed to be in breach.

If you have any questions about RABs please contact complaints@portmangroup.org.uk