Heineken USA, Inc. reached a settlement with the California Department of Alcohol and Beverage Control (CABC) for, according to the CABC’s press release, a violation against Heineken for participating in an “illegal marketing scheme aimed at consumers.” The settlement was reached on February 10, 2017 and will require Heineken to pay a settlement fee in the amount of $30,000. The case stems from Heineken’s participation in a social media sampling campaign in late 2015.  Prior to the violation, the program received some press, including in Nightclub & Bar and Mobile Marketer.  As reported and further outlined in a Heineken press release, Heineken targeted consumers on Facebook and Twitter and consumers were instructed to download a coupon through Gratafy, the marketing platform app. The promotion offered consumers the opportunity to redeem their coupon in cities such as Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco and Houston. Once downloaded, the consumer could go to participating bars or restaurants and redeem the coupon for a free Heineken, Heineken Light or Dos Equis. According to the CABC’s press release, “the Trade Enforcement Unit conducted an inquiry into the proposed advertising campaign, determined it was an illegal marketing scheme, and advised Heineken it was unlawful prior to its implementation. Against ABC’s advisement, Heineken proceeded with launching the illegal marketing scheme. Despite ABC’s initial and a subsequent warnings about the unlawful activity, Heineken allowed the illegal marketing scheme to persist for several weeks.” Since the promotion directed consumers to specific retailers, Heineken was in violation of the California Alcohol Beverage Control Act. Heineken will face a 45…

According to the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), it accepted a $750,000 offer in compromise from Craft Beer Guild, A MASS. distributor, for trade practice violations. The TTB said, “this is the largest offer in compromise that TTB has recovered from a single industry member for trade practice violations.” The offer in compromise is related to the distributor allegedly paying “slotting fees” to retailers in exchange for favorable product placement and shelf space.     And more is likely coming. As reported in the Boston Globe, “Robert Angelo, director of the bureau’s Trade Investigations Division, characterized the large settlement as a warning to beer distributors everywhere and vowed to take a “hard stand” against pay-to-play.” Angelo told the Boston Globe, “this is not something I intend to walk away from. You’re going to see further investigations in this area…I don’t want industry members to consider getting caught the cost of doing business. I want them to realize there are significant consequences if we catch you.”

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