Under California law, an alcohol beverage manufacturer is prohibited from offering premiums, gifts, or free goods in connection with the sale or distribution of alcohol. This is a long-standing public policy that prohibits manufacturers of alcoholic beverages from giving something of value to their retailers or consumers.
Beginning this year, the law has been relaxed to allow manufacturers of alcoholic beverages, including distillers and wineries to provide free ground transportation home to consumers who attend an invitation-only event relating to the promotion or sale of their product. It also permits breweries or beer manufacturers to offer free or discounted rides directly to consumers through taxi cabs, ride sharing, or other transportation services in the interests of public safety. The new law was enacted January 1, 2018 as an amendment to Business and Professions Code section 25600.
Section 25600 still prohibits alcohol beverage manufacturers from offering free gifts or premiums as a consumer protection policy, ostensibly to protect the consumer from predatory marketing. Free or low cost sober rides were, until the passage of this law, included in the prohibition.
Super Bowl 50 in 2016 prompted Assemblyman Evan Low to push for a change in this law to carve out an exception for free or low cost sober rides. Assemblyman Low noted that the beer manufacturers wanted to offer Super Bowl attendees vouchers or discount codes for a sober ride home but they were prohibited under the law from doing so. The assemblyman also noted that most states allow beer manufacturers to offer free or discounted rides and some states have even teamed up with beer manufacturers and transportation companies to offer vouchers for rides home.
To throw out a few well-worn phrases, this is a no-brainer and a win-win-win for everyone. The public is protected if less drunk drivers are on the road, the transportation companies get some extra business, and the beer manufacturers get good publicity. There was wide support for the legislation although a few opposed it on the grounds that it would encourage overconsumption of alcohol. Why this is limited only to beer manufacturers is puzzling but at least the law does now allow wineries or other alcohol producers to provide free rides to patrons who attend their special events.
The law does not allow the free or low-cost rides to be offered as an incentive to buy the manufacturer’s product. In other words, a beer manufacturer cannot run a promotion such as buy a beer and get a ride voucher or something similar.
This new law is one of many efforts to use a carrot instead of a stick to encourage drivers to leave the keys at home if they are going to drink. Other efforts include the California Office of Traffic Safety designated driver program that teams up with retail establishments that serve alcohol to provide free “mocktails” and appetizers to designated drivers. While the perceived threat of a DUI diminishes with every drink as the alcohol impairs the drinker’s judgment, perhaps the best approach is to offer incentives that require a choice before the drinking even begins.
Orange County DUI defense attorney, William Weinberg, has been defending drivers accused of DUI for almost 25 years. If you have questions about your DUI matter, Attorney Weinberg offers a free consultation. You may contact him at his Irvine office at 949-474-8008 or by emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org