Latest Developments

The Federal Service for Surveillance on Consumer Rights Protection and Human Wellbeing (Rospotrebnadzor) has of late reportedly been paying close attention to websites selling alcoholic drinks, especially counterfeits, amid a rising incidence of toxic poisonings in Russia from such counterfeit drinks purchased online.

Over the past three months the watchdog's regional offices on their own initiative have launched a spate of legal actions to ban dissemination of information on remote sales of alcohol using websites. A number of trials have already resulted in the targeted e-commerce websites being blacklisted and blocked on Russian territory and their advertisements for remote sales through such channels outlawed.

The lawsuits were filed as class actions with the involvement of the Federal Service for Supervision Over Communications, Information Technologies and Mass Media (Roskomnadzor), which maintains the register of blocked websites, as an interested party. The claims were primarily based on Articles 16 and 26 of Federal Law No. 171-FZ On the State Regulation of the Production and Circulation of Ethyl Alcohol and Alcohol- and Spirit-Containing Products and on the Limitation of Alcohol Consumption (Use), dated November 22, 1995, which set requirements for retailing alcoholic products and proscribe their improper sale, and on Clause 5 of the Rules for Remote Product Marketing (as approved by Russian Government Resolution No. 612 of September 27, 2007, as amended on October 4, 2012), which prohibits any remote sales of alcohol.

Significance for Alcoholic Companies and the Market

The latest Rospotrebnadzor campaign and the underlying procedure are fairly new and, we believe, can benefit the trademark owners of alcoholic brands and their licensees and/or legal traders in alcoholic products on the Russian market in their crusade against the spread of counterfeit products via the Internet. All these persons can contribute to the campaign by notifying Rospotrebnadzor about websites dealing in counterfeit alcoholic products so that its regional offices can take legal action against infringers.

Since the lawsuits concerned (which have so far proven exceptionally successful) are filed and supported by Rospotrebnadzor, this does not call for any substantial effort or costs for the contributing companies. The latter are only required to prepare appropriate notices and serve them on the local branches of Rospotrebnadzor, identifying the websites dealing in counterfeit products and describing how they can be distinguished from authentic drinks.

Recommended Action

  • Monitor online channels to detect websites trading in counterfeit alcoholic products for distribution in the Russian Federation;
  • Draw up notices reporting such websites and the distinctive features of the counterfeit products they deal in and file them with Rospotrebnadzor's regional offices; and
  • Monitor the websites and, should they persist in their operations, report them to Rospotrebnadzor once again.