Company: Marks and Spencer plc
Final Decision: 30 April 2004
Considered under the 3rd Edition of the Code.
“I believe that the term ‘Love Potion’ may indicate an association with sexual success.”
Corporation of London Trading Standards
Under Code paragraph 3.1
The alcoholic nature of a drink should be communicated on its packaging with absolute clarity.
Under Code paragraph 3.2(d)
A drink, its packaging and any promotional material or activity should not in any direct or indirect way suggest any association with sexual success.
The Panel’s assessment
The Panel first considered whether the alcoholic nature of the product was communicated with absolute clarity on its packaging. The Panel noted the producer’s arguments that the label tied to the bottle clearly highlighted the product’s alcoholic nature and that this was reinforced by references to alcohol on the display box and in-store shelf-edge tickets and by a coded till prompt that reminded staff that the customer should be aged 18 or over.
The Panel considered that the heart-shaped bottle together with its pink contents strongly resembled a perfume bottle and was likely to cause confusion without clear labelling. The Panel was concerned that no information was printed on the bottle and that details of the alcoholic nature of the product were printed mainly in the inside of the information label which was loosely tied with a ribbon that could easily become detached. The Panel concluded that the alcoholic nature of the product had not been communicated with absolute clarity on the product’s packaging and hence found it in breach of Code paragraph 3.1.
The Panel then considered whether the name of the product suggested an association with sexual success. The Panel noted the producer’s arguments that the product, which was in a heart-shaped bottle, was sold only in the six weeks up to and including St Valentine’s Day, was based on the notion of romantic love not sexual success and was promoted as a romantic Valentine’s gift. The Panel noted the frequent and prominent use of the word ‘love’ on the tied label and display box and accepted the producer’s arguments. It considered the product was clearly associated with romantic love rather than sexual success and concluded that neither the product name nor any aspect of its packaging alluded to sex or sexual success. Hence, the Panel found that the product did not breach Code paragraph 3.2(d).
Action by company
The company agreed to ensure that, if the product were sold in future, its labelling would be amended to comply with the Panel’s decision.