Kerry Wines, one of the leading wine companies in Greater China, has become the latest target of China’s quickened efforts to regulate online contents and ads that promote wine’s health properties.
On February 19 last year, Kerry Wines posted one article on its official WeChat account titled, “a glass of wine to cure your post-holiday syndrome” but authorities in Shanghai found that the article contained statements that allegedly expressed or implied that drinking alcohol had the effect of eliminating stress and anxiety.
As a result, Kerry Wines was slapped with RMB 150,000 fine (US$23,750), according to a statement released by Shanghai’s market watch dog issued earlier this month.
The reason as local authorities explained is that it violated the provisions of Article 23 of the Advertising Law of the People’s Republic of China, constituting an illegal act of publishing prohibited contents of alcohol advertisements.
This is the latest of what seems to be ramped up campaign from Chinese authorities to quash online and unregulated promotions of wine and other alcoholic beverages.
Just within last year, international wine and drinks companies including French wine giant Castel Freres, Pernod Ricard and Budweiser are penalized for featuring actions of drinking or using superlative terms in promoted online contents.
The authorities flagged contents in the post that explicitly advocated wine’s anxiety- and stress-relieving benefits. In one instance, authorities noted that the post appealed consumers to drink wine before bedtime for its “calming effects” to sooth one’s emotions. The wines that were promoted in the post are Argentina’s Francesco Rutini Malbec, Domaine Bouchard Pere & Fils and Casanova di Neri Brunello di Montalcino.
What’s interesting about the case is that despite the fact the content was posted by an agency appointed by Kerry Wines to manage its WeChat account, Shanghai authorities laid the blame squarely on Kerry Wines because ultimately the wine company approved the posting.
Even though the WeChat post only had limited reach among readers, less than 400 pageviews, Shanghai authorities still meted out a hefty fine of RMB 150,000 fine given its advertising spent was either hard to calculate or insignificant.
In some severe cases, fine can be up to RMB 1 million.
Last year, Japan’s electronics company Sony Group’s Chinese subsidiary was fined RMB 1 million (US$156,443) for planning a product launch event on the anniversary of the Sino-Japanese clash day in 1937.
Established in 2010, Kerry Wines is a fine wine importer and distributor operating in Greater China including Hong Kong and Shanghai. It’s owned by The Kuok Group, owner of Shangri-la Hotels, is a leader in properties, logistics, hospitality, food in Asia.