Online advertising provider Microsoft AdCenter is removing all wine merchants from its client list in France, saying French legislation does not permit wine advertising online.
The decision by the software giant follows the ruling by a Paris appeals court earlier this year against beer producer Heineken. The court said Heineken’s webpage contravened France’s draconian 1991 Evin law by using the internet to carry alcohol advertising.
Microsoft AdCenter in France has emailed its wine clients telling them their search keywords and wine advertisements will be deactivated by the end of the month.
‘AdCenter has decided to no longer transmit advertising that promotes or facilitates the the sale of alcohol,’ said the email.
AdCenter is one of the major contextual advertising providers that include Google’s AdSense and Yahoo’s Publisher Network (YPN). The services display advertisements selected and served by the Google or Microsoft systems. The adverts displayed are based on the content of a web page and bring revenue to websites and business to the advertisers.
Although Google’s press center could not confirm or deny the possibility that AdSense would follow AdCenter’s suit, observers expect both Google and Yahoo to do so.
‘If Microsoft’s self-censorship crosses over to Google and Yahoo, it could choke tens, even hundreds, of online wine stores and small domaines that make a living from wine tourism,’ Julien Pichoff, who has been following the situation since the Heineken ruling, told decanter.com. ‘In France, we have 269 online wine merchants, which represent several thousand jobs, both directly and indirectly. They are under threat.’
Pichoff also said that an amendment to the Evin law has been filed for consideration by parliament, which proposes that website owners may sell their wine, but no one else’s, effectively ruling out any indirect wine sales.
‘This is obviously totally pointless,’ said Pichoff. ‘It’s essentially a “stopgap” solution to allow sites such as heineken.fr to exist.’
Written by Oliver Styles