A new era for the Portman Group’s Independent Complaints Panel

The Portman Group has appointed a new Chair for the Independent Complaints Panel (ICP). The social responsibility and regulatory body for alcohol in the UK has selected Nicola Williams, an experienced barrister, judge and ombudsman to head up its Panel. As with all ICP chairs, Nicola has a typically impressive career history.

Nicola’s varied experience begins with the law; she was a barrister in private practice for several years before becoming a PCA Board member, a Commissioner at the IPCC (now IOPC), a part-time Crown Court judge and, more recently, working as an Ombudsman, a role she has fulfilled in both the UK and Cayman Islands.

Nicola’s appointment follows the end of the former Chair’s, Jenny Watson CBE, successful tenure. Jenny sat in the role for seven years and chaired more than 80 decisions. Jenny oversaw complaints under the fifth, and current sixth, edition of the Code of Practice on the Naming, Packaging and Promotion of Alcoholic Drinks and chaired the first complaint under the Code of Practice on Alcohol Sponsorship. Jenny’s time as Chair coincided with a period of growth and innovation in the alcohol industry which meant she was able to preside over important decisions regarding nostalgia marketing, the relationship between containers and consumption and products making undue health claims. The outcomes of these decisions resulted in the rebranding of numerous products and, on some occasions, the removal of a product from the market via a Retailer Alert Bulletin. Jenny’s reflections on her time can be read on her goodbye blog here.

Nicola is well-equipped to chair the ICP, which makes decisions based on complaints regarding alcohol products from members of the public and industry. She has previous experience as a sitting member of boards, including the Association of Chief Executives, and has extensive experience of being a key decision-maker, not only in her role as a judge but also in her current role as the Service Complaints Ombudsman for the Armed Forces – the first ever Ombudsman in UK Defence.

Speaking about her new role, Nicola Williams said: “I am excited to begin my role as the Independent Complaints Panel Chair. The Chair presides over many important decisions. The recent independent audit showed that the alcohol industry is 95% compliant, meaning the Panel has a crucial role in keeping this high level of adherence to the Portman Group’s Code.

“I am eager to begin working with the Panel to ensure the alcohol industry remains a socially responsible one within the context of a strong self-regulatory model.”

John Timothy, Chief Executive of the Portman Group commented: “We are delighted to welcome Nicola as the new Chair of the Independent Complaints Panel. She brings with her a wealth of knowledge and experience that will be crucial in working with the Panel.

“This year has been one full of achievement for the Portman Group, with the publication of the independent audit which showed 95% compliance to the sixth edition of the Code. However, it has also been a year full of challenges to the alcohol industry. Having Nicola as the new ICP Chair, as well as Philip Rycroft who was recently announced as our new Group Chair, will be invaluable in progressing our work.”