Business Law & Compliance

How to handle EU regulations

3 min read

07 January 2014

For the last 20 months a family run business has been embroiled in a battle with EU bureaucrats over changes to retail regulations. ECigaretteDirect.co.uk was faced with possible closure after regulators planned to class the devices as medicines. But by joining forces with their trade body and other companies, they were able to argue their case and a compromise has since been reached.

During the first 18 months, mother and son team Jean Rasbridge and James Dunworth learnt a lot about how to handle the EU and who they should be talking to to help them get their point across. Here’s Rasbridge’s advice to other companies faced with battling against Brussels bureaucrats and handling EU regulations.

Contact your MP and MEP

These are a great starting point and can speak on your behalf. We have found our local MP to be very helpful in our battle to bring common sense to the arguments for the regulation of e-cigarettes. Some MEP’s have been vocal and worked on the EU Tobacco Directive. Without their help I’m sure things would be very different for us now.

Join your trade association

Trade associations are the most helpful body to be part of. We have found that competing companies can join forces under our own association umbrella, the Electronic Cigarette Industry Trade Association, ECITA, for the common cause.

Get the right advice

Getting advice should be easy – it isn’t when it comes to the EU. Organisations are swamped with ever changing and rarely notified amendments to regulations making it very hard to get clear decisions. The Federation of Small Business (FSB) is a good organisation to be talking to.

Be proactive

Writing articles and blogs, using twitter and Facebook all helps in drawing attention to the issue you’re facing. We’ve used our blog to help make users aware of the threat and also educate them on what they can do about the threat, and thousands have written to their MEPs as a result. Do make sure you back issues up with informed advice rather than merely voicing your own opinions. You need to make sure you add weight to your arguments.

Interview Experts

A common theme on our blog is interviews with advocates and experts. Scientific opinion and passionate testimonials from advocates and users adds a weight and authority to your campaign that you as a retailer would never be able to carry alone. 

Be compliant

Regardless of your personal opinion about EU regulations, it is important to be compliant. If you’re not, they can make life very difficult for you. We have a provider who keeps us up to date and compliant with changing regulations and requirements. There are heavy penalties for non-compliance. However, do be aware that providers can offer differing advice. In one instance we had to seek clarification on a major point which was given, then acted on – and then totally reversed. 

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