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EUROPEAN CLAMPDOWN ON ILLEGAL ONLINE CHEMICAL SALES

Online sales of illegal pest control products continue to be an issue. However, in the UK an agreement between the British Pest Control Association, Crop Protection Association and eBay looks set to address the problem.

Since the tightening of rules regarding the sale of professional rodenticides, illegal internet sales of pesticides and biocides has become an increasing problem for UK pest authorities. In a move to combat the problem, the British Pest Control Association and Crop Protection Association have secured an agreement with internet giant eBay to help stop unauthorised online sales of pesticides/biocides.

eBay has clarified its policies so that now only authorised eBay shops are authorised to sell pesticides and biocides. Person-to-person sales are prohibited and eBay shops will only be permitted to sell these chemicals if they meet eBay’s policies and UK law, including the UK Stewardship Regime requirements.

eBay’s change in policy came after a Freedom of Information request was sent to the Chemical Regulation Directorate relating to 106 cases of unauthorised sales of pesticides on the internet. The majority of the 106 cases raised related to the sale of products that were not authorised for sale within the UK and some whose authorisation had expired.

The change is good news for pest managers, as preventing the sale of unauthorised chemicals prevents them from using dangerous substances – the fallout of which they are likely to be personally liable for.

BPCA’s technical manager, Dee Ward-Thompson, was pleased by the online retailer’s willingness to cooperate on such an important issue. “eBay was very welcoming, helpful and supportive throughout the process. We re all confident that the changes we’ve put in place will help stop a significant amount of illegal pesticide/biocide sales.”

The change in policy and the newly forged connections between the online retailer and the industry associations should make it much easier to stop unauthorised sales. However, with 13.4 million listings added weekly by mobile alone on eBay, it is a difficult job to monitor everything being sold on the site.

“Although these meetings mark a big win, there’s still a long way to go. Other large online retailers need to follow suit,” commented Wendy Gray from the Crop Protection Association.

Should we be blaming the retailer or the manufacturers? Ms Ward-Thompson believes the answer is both. “Ultimately, irresponsible online sellers are getting their products from somewhere. We are asking all manufacturers and distributors to ensure purchasers are aware of their legal obligations along the supply chain.”

At European Union level, the focus is on the online sale of counterfeit products. The Confederation of European Pest Management Associations (CEPA) is working to become a signatory to an EU Memorandum of Understanding on this topic. This is a voluntary initiative which brings together internet giants such as Amazon and Alibaba, with companies like Adidas, Chanel, Proctor & Gamble, along with trade associations. The idea is that working together these organisations will be able to find practical solutions to the counterfeit problem.

Here in Australia…

Although the laws and regulatory situation varies between countries, similar issues exist in Australia where unregistered products are being sold online and can be accessed by pest managers and general public alike. This issue has been a regular discussion point within the industry.

AEPMA president Vasili Tsoutouras offered the following commentary:

AEPMA is aware of the agreement reached with the British Pest Control Association and eBay.

Following notification that this is occurring in Australia, AEPMA has contacted eBay directly, asking whether or not they would consider a similar arrangement in Australia. In addition, AEPMA has written to the APVMA, making them aware of this situation and asking whether or not, as the key responsible authority, they would take action to regulate the online sales of chemicals in Australia. At this point in time, we have not received a response from either body, however we will continue to monitor the situation and seek appropriate reforms.

Australia’s situation is complicated by the fact that the regulatory functions in respect of chemical sales are held by the various states. In the past, various states have expressed sympathy with the industry’s position but have chosen not to undertake any action. We hope that the changes in Europe may assist in pushing for change in Australia also.

If a similar agreement can be made between online retailers and AEPMA here in Australia, it would serve the interests of both pest managers and consumers.

Original article printed with permission of Frances McKim, Pest magazine, UK

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