The EU Commission says that its traceability system for tobacco products ensures that providers of data storage services are independent from the tobacco industry.
The Commission was replying to questions posed by a French member of the EU Parliament, Younous Omarjee.
In a preamble to his questions, Omarjee said that, as part of the fight against the parallel trade in tobacco and the establishment of a tracking and tracing system in line with the World Health Organization’s protocol ‘to eliminate illicit trade in tobacco products’, on 11 October 2018 the Commission had published a list of companies authorised to act as primary data ‘warehousers’.
‘The protocol calls for this system to be fully independent from the tobacco industry,’ he said.
‘However, it appears that the companies selected by the tobacco industry as primary warehousers of traceability data are historically linked to it, and that most of them have designed and/or implemented the Codentify solution, which is considered by the WHO to be contrary to the protocol.’
Omarjee then asked:
- ‘How can the Commission demonstrate that its system is in conformity with the protocol and is completely independent from the tobacco industry?
- ‘Can the Commission demonstrate transparency by publishing the documents on which it based its decision to approve these companies, as well as all the verification procedures and investigations it has carried out on these companies to ensure their complete independence from the tobacco industry?
- ‘When does the Commission intend to bring its directives and acts into line with the protocol?’
In its reply to question 1, the Commission said that the traceability system for tobacco products contained multiple safeguards, including independence requirements, which ensured that key third parties, such as providers of data storage services, were independent from the tobacco industry.
Each proposed provider had to submit to the Commission a written declaration by which it legally attested that it met the requirements of independence, notably legal and financial independence as well as absence of any conflict of interest.
In answering question 2, The Commission said that the verification of each provider’s independence was assessed using company information related to the proposed provider and its management, available to the Commission via a professional due diligence database. ‘The Commission uses this database also in other areas to assess legal entities,’ it said. ‘The assessment reviewed each provider’s stakeholder structure, financial position and current and past employment of statutory management.
‘Due to the proprietary nature of that information, the Commission regrets however that the information obtained from the due diligence database cannot be disclosed.
‘In the case that an approved provider discontinues to meet the requirements of independence, the Commission has the power to revoke the given approval.’
In replying to question 3, the Commission said: ‘Article 15 of Directive 2014/40/EU (on tobacco traceability), along with the relevant Commission implementing legislation, is fully in line with the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control’s Protocol (notably Article 8)’.