Prohibited and controlled advertising

Prohibited products and services

What products and services may not be advertised?

Advertising that is in breach of other legislation is also per se in violation of good marketing practice as set out in the Marketing Act. The following are examples of products that are subject to the special legislation that includes rules about prohibited or controlled advertising:

  • tobacco products (although a few exceptions apply) according to the Tobacco Act;
  • prescribed medicines according to the Medicinal Products Act; and
  • alcoholic beverages on TV and radio according to the Alcohol Act.; and
  • foreign arranged lotteries according to the Lotteries Act.

The general clauses in the Marketing Act are furthermore supplemented by Annex I to the Unfair Practices Directive, which sets out a blacklist of prohibited commercial practices. Such prohibited practices include pyramid schemes, illegal products and products that closely resemble others in their product’s class that cause or are likely to cause confusion between the products.

Prohibited advertising methods

Are certain advertising methods prohibited?

Any advertising that is considered to be misleading or aggressive according to the general clauses in the Marketing Act or advertising that is on the blacklist (see question 29) is prohibited. Such commercial practices include, for example, subliminal advertising, sending spam emails without the prior consent of the recipient and making persistent and unwanted solicitations by telephone, email or other remote media.

Protection of minors

What are the rules for advertising as regards minors and their protection?

Advertising directed at children and youths is allowed only under certain limited conditions. The reason is that young people have yet to develop the skills necessary for critical thinking and are therefore more susceptible to advertising messages compared to adults.

Advertising that includes direct exhortation to children, to either purchase or to persuade their parents or other adults to buy an advertised product for them, are prohibited according to the Marketing Act. Sweden also has a total ban on television advertising aimed at children under the age of 12 and addressed direct advertising, such as text messages or emails, aimed at children under the age of 16.

Credit and financial products

Are there special rules for advertising credit or financial products?

Yes, in some cases companies and intermediaries that provide financial or credit services to the public must obtain permission from the FI to conduct such activities.

In advertising credits or credit services, companies are required to safeguard the consumer’s interests with due care along with particular moderation and restraint. Advertisers are furthermore obliged to provide the credit consumer with all the necessary information leading them to making an optimal decision based on their own needs and economic situation, including the risks with indebtedness. The information provided on the credit should be presented as factual, accurate and in neutral terms, and it must be easy to pay attention to. Thus, it is important not to mislead the consumer in any way regarding the consequences or conditions of the credit arrangement. The Consumer Credit Act additionally stipulates the obligation to provide information relating to the effective interest rate for the credit as well as contact information to where the consumer can get further support concerning budget and debt issues.

As for the advertising of other financial products such as insurances, loans and investment products, similar rules apply and the intermediary or the company concerned is naturally obliged to provide detailed pre-contractual information. These specific information requirements are listed in different regulations depending on the product or service being advertised. For example, with regards to the advertising of saving and investment products, it is necessary and of great importance to provide the consumer with information about the risks associated with such products. Since January 2018, new rules regarding financial instruments in the EU apply because of the second Markets in Financial Instruments Directive (Directive 2004/39/EC) and the Markets in Financial Instruments Regulation (Regulation (EU) No. 600/2014). The Regulation applies to investment firms, credit institutions when providing investment services or performing investment activities, and to market operators including any trading venues they operate and all other such companies involved in financial instrument transactions. According to the preambles of the Regulation, competent authorities’ power should be complemented with an explicit mechanism for prohibiting or restricting the marketing of any financial instrument or structured deposit giving rise to serious concerns regarding investor protection, orderly functioning and integrity of financial markets, or commodities markets, or the stability of the whole or part of the financial system, together with appropriate coordination and contingency powers for the European Securities and Markets Authority or, for structured deposits, the European Banking Authority.

Therapeutic goods and services

Are there special rules for claims made about therapeutic goods and services?

The advertising of prescription medicines directed towards the general public is not allowed according to the Medicinal Products Act, with the exception of vaccination campaigns against infectious diseases (however, such a vaccination campaign cannot include the name of the specific vaccine). Advertising non-prescription medicine, on the other hand, is permitted only if the medicine has been approved to be sold on the Swedish market by the Swedish Medical Products Agency and if the advertising is not directed at children.

In addition, the advertising should promote the proper use of the medicine and include information that is objective, balanced and up-to-date. The Medicinal Products Act also stipulates certain information and presentation requirements, such as that the content of the advertising must not be designed in a way that may lead individuals away from seeking the appropriate care. As for naturopathic drugs and traditional herbal medicinal products, they can only be advertised as effective against illnesses of a temporary or mild nature and the marketing also needs to be compatible with the above-mentioned requirements.

Food and health

Are there special rules for claims about foodstuffs regarding health and nutrition, and weight control?

Nutrition and health claims are allowed only if they satisfy the requirements as set out in the Regulation (EC) No. 1924/2006 on nutrition and health claims made on foods. The rules are EU-wide and apply to all types of labelling, presentation and advertising of foods.

Nutrition claims that can be used for marketing purposes are listed in the Annex to the Regulation. Examples of permitted nutrition claims, provided the products in question also meet the requirements set out in the Regulation, are ‘low in fat’, ‘no added sugar’ and ‘light’. Health claims, on the other hand, need to have been approved by the EU Commission in order to be used for commercial purposes. Health claims that are not allowed include those that make reference to recommendations of individual doctors or individual health professionals and health-related claims that make reference to the rate or amount of weight loss.


What are the rules for advertising alcoholic beverages?

In Sweden, there are significant restrictions on advertising alcoholic beverages because of its effects on public health. The principal rule, according to the Alcohol Act, is that all permitted advertising of alcoholic beverages (greater than 2.25 per cent alcohol by volume) must display the text ‘particular moderation’. This means that any variety of advertising of alcohol directed to consumers may not be intrusive, insistent or encourage the use of alcohol, nor be aimed at people under the age of 25. The advertising of alcohol may furthermore only display the product itself and thus not be linked to individuals, attributes or to a certain lifestyle.

There is, moreover, a total ban on advertising alcohol on television and radio, with the exception of advertising that conforms to the ‘country of origin’ principle. This means that Sweden does not prohibit alcohol advertising on TV transmitted from other countries, if such advertising is allowed in the country of origin. As for other media, there is no explicit prohibition of marketing alcohol other than that the content of such advertising should be promoted in accordance with the requirement for particular moderation. Commercial adverts in periodicals are, for example, allowed only if the alcoholic beverage does not exceed 15 per cent alcohol by volume and 20 per cent of the advertising surface includes warning text about the harmful effects of alcohol. Advertising alcohol on the internet is subject to the same rules only with somewhat less stringent requirements. The Swedish Consumer Agency and the Swedish Press and Broadcasting Authority contacted the EU Commission regarding a ban on advertising alcoholic beverages in Sweden through companies that had established themselves in the UK and broadcast from the UK to Sweden with content aimed at the Swedish public (eg, TV3, TV6, TV8, Channel 5 and Channel 9). The EU Commission replied that such advertising was permitted because a company, in such a case, did not have the purpose of avoiding the Swedish advertising rules when they established themselves in the UK.


What are the rules for advertising tobacco products?

The Tobacco Act bans almost all forms of tobacco advertising in Sweden, including indirect advertising and distribution of free tobacco products. The major exceptions to the prohibition on tobacco advertising, provided that such advertising is not intrusive, insistent or encouraging the use of tobacco, are commercial messages at the point of sale and advertising that only consists of providing tobacco products for sale.


Are there special rules for advertising gambling?

The main legislation that regulates gambling in Sweden is the Gambling Act, which came into effect on 1 January 2019. Only licensed gambling operators are allowed to advertise on the Swedish market and such permits are granted by the Swedish Gambling Authority. A licence may, according to the Gambling Act, be given to a person who is deemed to have the knowledge, experience and organisation required to run such a gambling business, can be assumed to run such a gambling business in accordance with applicable laws and regulations and otherwise is considered appropriate to run such a gambling business. On the other hand, a licence may, according to the Act, not be given to a person who is, for example, in bankruptcy, under the age of 18 years or has been found guilty of a serious crime. At the same time, the Act makes it possible for advertisers to market via social media such as Facebook and Instagram, something that was not allowed according to the previous rules.

In addition to the clauses stipulated in the Marketing Act, an advertiser who advertises gambling also needs to be compliant with the clauses concerning marketing according to the Gambling Act. The Gambling Act stipulates that any marketing of gambling needs to be, inter alia, moderate, not directed at children or youths under the age of 18 and not directed to an individual who has signed up to the new ‘opt-out’ list for gambling (available to customers via the website KO has stated that an advertiser who makes claims like, for example, ‘the road to gold’, ‘the prize on your bank account within five minutes’, ‘in this way you can receive millions’ and ‘Play Now!’ may be a violation of the Gambling Act’s requirements on moderation.


What are the rules for advertising lotteries?

The rules that regulate the advertising of lotteries in Sweden are set out in the Gambling Act. In order to arrange a lottery for the general public, it is a general requirement that a licence be obtained from the Swedish Gambling Authority. Advertising that is prohibited under the Gambling Act is any advertising that promotes the participation in unlawfully arranged lotteries, and advertising that promotes the participation in lotteries arranged outside of Sweden.

In addition, new provisions regarding advertising have been introduced under the Gambling Act, including a general provision that states the need to observe ‘moderation’, and provisions that prohibit advertising specifically directed at children and youths under the age of 18 as well as to an individual who has signed up to the new ‘opt-out’ list for gambling (available to customers via the website

The requirement of moderation, inter alia, refers to the advertising not being intrusive or socially attractive and that the commercial content is factual and reliable.

Promotional contests

What are the requirements for advertising and offering promotional contests?

According to the new Gambling Act, an advertiser who offers or advertises a promotional contest where there is no required payment, does not need a licence according to the act. This means that the provisions set out in the Marketing Act are applicable to the advertising of promotional contests. The advertising of promotional contests needs to include all detailed information regarding the essential conditions for the contest, such as price information, time limitations and other limitations set for the contest. As with other types of marketing, the advertisement of a promotional contest must not be false or misleading.

Indirect marketing

Are there any restrictions on indirect marketing, such as commercial sponsorship of programmes and product placement?

Provisions regarding product placement and sponsoring are set out in the Radio and Television Act. The sponsorship rules state that the sponsor needs to be announced in an appropriate manner at the beginning or end, or both, of the programme. Such sponsorship message should include the sponsor’s name, logo or other distinctive mark and may not contain promotional elements.

The following rules apply to programme sponsorship:

  • news programmes cannot be sponsored;
  • sponsorship by someone whose main activity is the production or sale of alcoholic beverages, tobacco products or electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) and refill containers (e-juice) is prohibited; and
  • sponsorship by pharmaceutical companies that promote prescription medicines, medical treatments available on prescription or infant formula is prohibited.

Similar to the sponsorship rules, product placement is permitted only if information is given about the placement at the beginning and end of the programme as well as following advertisement breaks. The information should contain a neutral announcement about the appearance of the product placement and the product or service that has been placed in the programme.

Product placement is furthermore allowed only in movies, TV shows, sports programmes and light entertainment programmes, based on the following rules:

  • the product placement does not unduly benefit commercial interests;
  • the product placement of tobacco, alcohol, prescription medicines, infant formula or e-cigarettes and e-juice is prohibited;
  • gambling products if the advertiser does not have the necessary licence under the Gambling Act; and
  • the programme is not primarily intended for children under 12 years of age.
Other advertising rules

Briefly give details of any other notable special advertising regimes.

Political propaganda, religious teachings and civic information are not subject to the Swedish marketing rules but fall under the Fundamental Law on Freedom of Expression (1991:1469) and the Freedom of the Press Act. Gender discriminating and other offensive advertising that are in breach of the ethical marketing rules also fall outside the Marketing Act. The RO is, however, entitled to handle complaints about gender discrimination and unethical advertising with the guidance of the ICC Code (see question 5).