Vejp shop forced to stop online sales - "Absurd"

Following a decision by the environmental administration, the Gothenburg company Arcane Vape was forced to take down all sales of age-restricted products from its website. The reason was so-called deficiencies in the control of age at delivery. The problem was that they had outsourced the age verification to a third party.
"But with the requirements imposed by the environmental administration, no retailer, either of pharmacy products or nicotine products, can reasonably achieve this without handing over control to someone else at some stage. It would be absurd," says owner Fredric Corneliusson.

Since 1 March, online sellers of nicotine products must ensure that the person collecting the packet is over 18. The new requirement means that online traders must link the purchase to the same person who picks up the packet. As a result, several e-cigarette sellers have had to change their options for shipping to customers. But despite the fact that the guidelines set new age verification requirements and are intended to prevent minors from obtaining nicotine products, the interpretation of the laws is causing a lot of confusion locally, as small business owner Fredric Corneliusson found out.

"The municipality forced us to stop all internet sales, even though we do the same as most others," says Fredric Corneliusson, who runs the vejp company Arcane Vape in Gothenburg.

Shortcomings in age checks

Arcane Vape has a physical store in Gothenburg but also operates online. In January 2024, even before the guidelines from the Swedish Public Health Agency became public, the municipality reported shortcomings in the age checks at the time of delivery.

"We were told by the municipality of Gothenburg that it is not ok to leave the age verification to someone else. We stood our ground and explained that the model we had for this corresponds to the requirements that exist. Age verification via BankID and handover to the same person, via ID verification, admittedly via an external supplier. But that did not matter. According to the municipality, it is not possible to transfer the responsibility for an age check to someone else in that way", says Fredric Corneliusson to Vejkollen.

Notification and appeal

At this point, the municipality's officers decided that the online sales did not comply with the guidelines and should therefore be stopped immediately. Fredric Corneliusson, for his part, appealed the decision and the criticised website became a case for investigation by the environmental administration. 

"We thought that the municipality was unnecessarily harsh in its judgement and that their reasoning was completely illogical," says Fredric Corneliusson to Vejpkollen.

The court supported the municipality's decision

However, the investigation proved the municipality's officers right. According to the investigation, Arcane Vape was deficient on two points regarding age checks. The investigator found that it was not sufficiently clear on each individual page that the 18-year age limit applies to sales. Arcane Vape had chosen to place the warning in a large banner on the entrance page. The municipality argued that it should be visible on all pages - something that Arcane Vape then changed.

"The guidelines were a bit unclear, I think. We looked around at other sites in the industry and most still do it the way we were criticised for. You have a declaration on the entrance page, or when the visitor enters the site for the first time. In addition, it is not possible to shop unless you confirm your age via BankID. Now we have the banner on every page," says Fredric Corneliusson.

Puts the responsibility entirely on the retailer

Furthermore, the environmental administration writes that Arcane Vape, by leaving the age control at delivery to a third party, in this case DHL, does not meet the requirements that it has undertaken via the self-monitoring programme. 

"It is not clear from the company's procedures how they ensure that ordered electronic cigarettes and refill containers are delivered to the right person, and that they are not passed on to persons under the age of 18, so-called "langning"" the administration writes in its decision and continues:

"The requirement to ascertain the age of the recipient and to ensure that there is no dealing applies to the supply of electronic cigarettes and refill containers in business activities in general, not just to sales. It is clear from the text of the law that the requirement applies to the actual delivery of the goods, not when any payment is made. As a retailer of electronic cigarettes and refill containers, the company must ensure that it does not supply electronic cigarettes and refill containers to persons under the age of 18. The company must be able to verify the age of the recipient in connection with the delivery of the consignment in its own control procedures."

"No one under 18 can shop or collect"

But according to Mr Corneliusson, the company has done what it can to ensure the age, both at purchase and delivery.

"We believe that we have done this in practice. It has to be the same person picking up the goods who identified themselves at the time of purchase. Now, like most other industries, we are trying to find other solutions. But with the requirements imposed by the Administrative Court, no retailer, either of pharmacy products or nicotine products, can reasonably achieve this without handing over control to someone else at some stage. It would be absurd", says Fredric Corneliusson.

"Do as many others do"

Following the decision of the Environmental Protection Agency, Arcane Vape was forced to take down all sales of regulated products from its website. 

"Luckily, we are not entirely dependent on those sales, as we also have a physical store. But it's obviously a very tough financial situation for us. It also feels very strange. There are a lot of companies that don't even try to follow the guidelines, while we have rebuilt our entire website and modelled the shipping options to meet the requirements. And then suddenly this message comes, without any warning. It's not ok anywhere" 

Arcane Vape has appealed the decision of the Environmental Protection Agency to the Administrative Court, which is due to give its judgement in August.

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