Received a complaint

If a complaint has been made against one of your products you will be informed about which rules have been cited. You then have the opportunity to respond to the complaint. In order to aid your reply, please read further to see the outline of our complaints process, a Q+A on the process and information on how the ICP works.

The Code rules can be viewed here, along with a selection of previous decisions that the Panel may consider in light of previous precedents and decisions.

Complaints – Q+A

What type of complaint can be made to the Portman Group?

Anyone can make a complaint against an alcohol product, promotion or sponsorship that they consider is in breach of the Codes. Complainants who have a competitive, commercial or direct interest in the complaint will be named during the investigation.  Complainants who are members of the public will be anonymous.

What happens when the Portman Group receives a complaint?

Firstly, we’ll contact the complainant to make sure we have captured the complaint accurately. We will also ask them to confirm that there is no legal action between them and your company, or likely to be initiated.

The complaint is then reviewed by the Chair of the Independent Complaints Panel. They will decide whether the case meets the conditions to be resolved informally or whether it should be investigated formally by the Panel.

What are the differences between informal resolution and a Panel investigation?

Informal resolution is a potential route if you agreed that the product or promotion breaches the Code. Additionally, the complaint would be a clear-cut breach of the Code, that it is unlikely to set a precedent for other producers, that you haven’t a significant history of non-compliance with the Code and the problem can be resolved, or has already been resolved, by you taking immediate and relevant action.  If you disagree with the complaint, then the Independent Complaints Panel will review the complaint.

What happens with informal resolution?

If the ICP Chair offers an informal resolution, you can consult the Advisory Service to agree on changes to resolve the complainant’s concerns. The Portman Group will ask you for an assurance that the product or promotion will be amended in line with recommendations from the Advisory Service or withdrawn from the market. If you want to challenge the complaint, you can ask for a formal ICP investigation.

What happens with a Panel investigation?

The Portman Group will send you details of the complaint and invite you to respond in writing.  We will also ask you to send us a sample of the product packaging, so that the Panel can see it in context.

After liaising with you, we will send you and the complainant the case dossier which will include all the information that the Panel will consider when it reviews the complaint, including any similar cases which the Panel have ruled on previously.

The Panel will meet and consider the product or promotion under the Code. They can consider the product or promotion under any rule of the Code, not just those cited in the complaint. The Panel will decide whether to uphold or not uphold the complaint.

What happens after the Panel meeting?

If the Panel decides not to uphold the complaint, we will send a full report to you and the complainant explaining the Panel’s assessment.  The Panel’s decision will be final and will be published.

If the Panel decides to uphold the case, we will send you the full text of their decision and invite you to send any further comments you want the Panel to consider. At this point, the provisional decision is confidential between you, the Panel and the Portman Group. You can choose to accept the decision at this stage and the decision will be published.

If you do send further comments, the Panel will review the case at a second hearing, with the benefit of your latest response.

When the Panel has reached its final decision, we will share the Panel’s assessment with the complainant.  That will be

  • After the first hearing, if the complaint is not upheld
  • After the deadline for your response to a provisional upheld decision, if you let us know that you accept the decision or if you send no response
  • After the second hearing, if you challenge the Panel’s provisional decision.

Learn more about the Independent Complaints Panel and how it works, here.

What is the publication process?

For transparency the final decision is published on the Portman Group website and communicated via a press release. We will share the press release and schedule date with you. You and the complainant are offered the opportunity to include a comment in the release, but it is at the discretion of the Group as to its final inclusion.

What happens if the ICP uphold the complaint?

If the ICP has upheld a complaint you 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.

If you chose not to take action the Portman Group can issue a Retailer Alert Bulletin. This advises licensed retailers not to replenish stock of the problematic product after a specified date (usually 3 months).