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BAT and Amazon to fight €7m sanction for ‘misleading advertising’ of Glo in Italy

British American Tobacco (BAT) and Amazon are going to appeal a combined total of €7m in sanctions for the “misleading advertising” of Glo Hyper X2 and Glo Hyper Air heated tobacco devices in Italy.

The Italian Competition Authority (AGCM) announced on 14th February that it had decided to fine BAT €6m and Amazon EU €1m for their promotion of the two Glo devices on their respective websites as well as through billboards and broadcast commercials in cinemas.

According to the AGCM, the two companies did not advertise these products “truthfully” to consumers. The authority said they did not properly highlight the two main warnings related to usage of the heated tobacco products – presence of nicotine and age restrictions.

“These products are harmful for health because of the nicotine content of the tobacco sticks the devices need to be used with,” the AGCM said. “And they are not meant for consumption by minors.”

Through their advertising of the two BAT-manufactured heated tobacco devices, the authority said, the two sellers breached Italy’s Consumer Code.

“This conduct is seriously misleading,” the AGCM said. “It may lead consumers to purchase a product which is dangerous for health and forbidden to minors.”

The authority argued that BAT and Amazon advertised the two products “as mere electronic devices and design objects”, using the devices’ aesthetics to attract consumers regardless of their function, which was related to tobacco and nicotine usage. And such usage requires specific warnings for informed adult consumption, the AGCM said.

 

Clearly meant for adult use only

 

Both Glo maker BAT and online selling platform Amazon told TobaccoIntelligence that they reject the AGCM’s accusations.

BAT, which is also fighting a recently imposed temporary sales suspension of its Velo nicotine pouch line in Italy, said it never meant to advertise its products to under-age users.

“We are clear that our products are for adults only, and we adhere to the highest standards of conduct to prevent under-age use of any nicotine products,” a spokesperson from BAT Italy told TobaccoIntelligence.

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    The tobacco giant said it followed indications from the Italian authorities in its marketing practices and that it is going to appeal against the recent sanction for the advertising of its Glo devices.

    “We cooperated with the Italian authorities and implemented all suggested changes to our marketing immediately,” the spokesperson said. “While we acknowledge the decision, we plan to appeal it.”

     

    ‘Wrong both factually and legally’

     

    While the AGCM accused Amazon of not providing potential buyers of Glo heated tobacco devices with proper warnings on health risks related to nicotine consumption, the company told TobaccoIntelligence that, based on its policy and in compliance with Italian laws, the platform does not sell any nicotine-containing products.

    The Italian authority, though, clearly believes that, because Glo Hyper X2 and Glo Hyper Air can only be used with BAT’s line of nicotine-containing sticks, advertising obligations for nicotine products extend to the marketing of these devices.

    The online platform does not agree with this position, while also maintaining that product descriptions of Glo devices published on the website include mentions of health risks and age restrictions.

    “We are in deep disagreement with the conclusions of the Italian Competition Authority and we will appeal against them,” an Amazon spokesperson said. “The AGCM’s conclusions are wrong both factually and legally.”

    According to Amazon, the online promotion of the two heated tobacco devices on the platform provided “precise indications” on age restrictions and health risks associated with the purchase of the products.

    “We worked closely with the AGCM in this process. And we made this information even clearer for clients in order to address the authority’s concerns,” Amazon said, adding that the company communicated with clients to provide further information on the products.

    – Tiziana Cauli TobaccoIntelligence staff

    Photo: John Schnobrich

    Logo art: BoliviaInteligente

    Tiziana Cauli

    Senior reporter
    Tiziana is an Italian journalist from Sardinia. She has worked for both international and local media in Italy, South Africa, France, Spain, the UK, Lebanon and Belgium. She also worked as a communications manager for several international NGOs in the humanitarian sector. Tiziana holds a degree in Political Science and a PhD in African Studies from the University of Cagliari and she’s a graduate of the Carlo De Martino school of journalism in Milan.

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