E-cigarette company sued for illegal advertising

Can be fined one million for colourful flavour descriptions?

"Beginners? We'll help you!". "Quit smoking with our starter packs!" "Irresistible fruit candy flavour" These expressions have made the Swedish Consumer Agency see red. It is now suing a Swedish e-cigarette company for the first time for unauthorised marketing.

It was last spring that the Swedish Consumer Agency drew attention to the fact that Ecoswe (Ecocig) had texts and images that did not comply with the benchmarks of the law. According to a lawsuit, Ecoswe promoted nicotine-containing e-liquids and e-cigarettes using value-laden descriptions, encouraging banners and enticing stickers, both on its website and on social media.

Ecocig for their part, say that they have done their best to change their product descriptions in dialogue with the Swedish Consumer Agency's inspectors. This work has been ongoing throughout last year, according to one of the owners, Ash Abbasi.

"It is regrettable that KO chooses to make an example of us. We have made a great effort to comply with current legislation. We are launching a new website in February where it will look different", says Ash Abbasi to Vejpkollen.

Unclear rules

As Vejpkollen has previously reported, the rules surrounding the marketing of e-cigarettes is difficult to interpret. The total ban, with some exceptions, applies to all nicotine-containing products. Several parts or the entire vejp device are also subject to the same law. In practice, this means that certain products may only be marketed in direct connection with a purchase. And then only in an online store where it is possible to go pay directly to the cashiernot through banners or social media.

Description of the products is allowed, but limited by not including value words, enticing images and offers. Positive customer reviews related to the products are also prohibited.

However, nicotine-free shortfills, batteries and several accessories are not regulated and can be freely marketed.

According to Ash Abbasi of Ecoswe, the law is difficult to follow. He says that even the Consumer Agency does not seem to know what the rules are.

"We work with areas where the legislation is unclear, which is also stated in the claim. They themselves write that it is not clear from the law or its preparatory work what specific information may be included. Or which images of products are authorised in connection with the sale of electronic cigarettes and refillable containers on the internet," he says. Ash Abbasi.

"Non-moderate" presentations

According to Ida NyströmHowever, according to the Commission's counsellor in the case, there are serious abuses on the part of Ecoswe.

"The company makes several "no-nonsense" presentations of the products, there are also enticements in the form of free shipping and stickers pointing to sale prices." says Ida Nyström.

She also says that the very name of the e-liquid "Ecojuice" suggests that the e-juice has some kind of environmental or health benefit. This is also illegal, according to the Swedish Consumer Agency.

One million in fines

This is the first time the marketing of e-cigarettes has been tested in court. And according to Ida Nyström, case law is needed so that the agency can use the law correctly in the future.

"I think this is an interesting case. It is relatively new legislation. As we see it, it is crystal clear. It will be interesting to see if the court agrees," she says.

In some cases, a case in The Patent and Market Court up to one year to reach a judgement. It all depends on whether or not the parties have the same view of what happened. The amount of any penalty depends on the company's turnover, but it can be as high as one million crowns.

This can be devastating for smaller companies like Ecoswe. The company is run by five people and has three employees.

"The fact that the Swedish Consumer Agency chooses to use us for an indicative judgement, due to unclear legislation, will have devastating consequences for our company" says Ash Abbasi to Vejpkollen.

You can read the full text of the lawsuit against Ecoswe (Ecocig) here:
Consumer Agency vs good taste

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