Ad industry opens fire on EC lawyers over ad ban

- EC lawyers were this week under fire from ad industry leaders as legal action against France's ban on alcohol advertising became bogged down by delay.

- EC lawyers were this week under fire from ad industry leaders as legal action against France's ban on alcohol advertising became bogged down by delay.

No decision was taken on whether to prosecute over the Loi Evan or Greece's curbs on TV toy advertising when the European Commission met on Thursday last week.

The Commission says it will stay its hand over the toy ad ban until the results of a Europe-wide survey into the effects of advertising to children are known.

The only good news for industry lobbyists is that the Commission will proceed against Germany's draconian sales promotion laws by backing a case being brought against the German Government by Polygram.

"It's one small step forward but two huge steps backward," Lionel Stanbrook, the deputy director of Britain's Advertising Association said.

He added: "The EU legal service has lost almost all its credibility. You have to assume from what's happened that it has a hidden agenda. I wish I knew what it was."

Jacques Santer, the EC president, and Padraig Flynn, the health commissioner, are among the staunchest supporters of the Loi Evin. They have a surprise ally in Karel Van Miert. the commissioner for competition.

But their argument that the ban is an effective health measure is questioned by industry lobbyists. They claim that its implementation in 1991 has led to an increase in teenage drunkeness caused by high sales of unadvertised, cheap and high strength supermarket own-label beers.

"That's the stuff we saw being chucked around Marseille beaches last week," Stanbrook claimed.

Meanwhile, Mario Monti, the internal market commissioner, is said to have come under pressure from Santer to drop action against Greece, a move described by Stanbrook as "mystifying".

He said: "I think it's about time EC commissioners behaved as such and not as mouthpieces for member states."





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