We are writing to you in your capacity as Group Operations Director of FedEx UK with regard to your company’s approach to dealing with vape products (e-cigarettes and e-liquids) being imported to the UK.
The Independent British Vape Trade Association (IBVTA) is the UK’s leading trade association for the vape industry, and the only one dedicated exclusively to the independent sector. All IBVTA members are free from any control or ownership from the tobacco or pharmaceutical industries.
Vape products in the UK are regulated under the Tobacco and Related Products Regulations 2016 (TRPR) – the UK’s implementation of the EU Tobacco Products Directive. These regulations impose the following restrictions:
- Nicotine containing e-liquid can only be sold in bottles no bigger than 10ml,
- Tanks on vaping devices are restricted to a maximum of 2ml,
- All nicotine containing e-liquids and devices capable of vaporising such e-liquids to have been tested and notified with the MHRA,
- All vape products to be sold with the following warning, even if they do not contain nicotine when sold: “The product contains nicotine which is a highly addictive substance.”
- Nicotine strength is restricted to a maximum of 20mg/ml, and
- There are severe restrictions on the advertising of vape products.
These regulations are enforced domestically by Trading Standards and at the border by Border Force.
We are concerned by reports we are receiving that FedEx UK have started to “enforce” these regulations, not only because your company has no legal basis on which to do this, but also because your company is misinterpreting the regulations in some instances.
As an example, one of our members received an e-mail from FedEx UK telling them that the products they had imported did not comply with the TRPR. The product in question was zero milligram e-liquid in a refill container exceeding 10ml. Our member was told that the product in question would either be returned to the sender or destroyed. As you should be aware, the TRPR only applies to nicotine containing e-liquids, therefore our members products were perfectly legal. Following detailed and lengthy discussions between the IBVTA, the FedEx Clearance Team and the IBVTA’s own Trading Standards Primary Authority we were able to have the product released.
Whilst we were delighted with the outcome, such a situation should never have arisen in the first instance. Our member was put in a very difficult and stressful position as a direct result of FedEx UK misinterpreting the TRPR and wrongly trying to enforce the regulations. Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident.
In the context of importing vape products to the UK from outside of the EU, these regulations apply to business-to-business sales only.
As a responsible trade association, IBVTA and our members are not opposed to regulation. Some aspects of the TRPR, namely the testing and notification of e-liquids are sensible. We therefore acknowledge FedEx for their vigilance in looking for non-compliant products coming into the UK business supply chain. As we have made clear, our concerns relate to FedEx UK’s misinterpretation of the TRPR and your overreach when it comes to trying to enforce these regulations.
If you believe non-compliant products are being imported for sale by UK businesses, please seek advice from the relevant authorities, rather than taking any unilateral action.
As an association we have produced detailed guidance for our members regarding the TRPR. This guidance makes clear what is and is not compliant. We would be happy to share this with you and your colleagues to prevent any further such incidents. In addition, we would be happy to meet with you to answer any questions you may have.