INEXTO: Solidifying the Digital Rebranding of Codentify

Towards the end of January, Inexto, the new brand name for big tobacco’s track and trace system formerly called Codentify, has taken additional steps to rebrand which I will extrapolate on and analyze below. To be honest, they are pretty meager efforts which may reflect the fact that they know that it’s nearly impossible to hide their ties and history with big tobacco. So why spend the money trying?

Originally, I found their Facebook most interesting, but I have since updated this article to first give attention to their twitter.

A twitter account opened in Inexto’s name in January 2017 which until March 13th only had one follower. I am proudly their second. Their handle was @Inexto_Lausanne.

Amazingly enough, here is the first concrete tie between Inexto and Codentify.

Twice the account tweeted a link to a  wikipedia page titled “Codentify” which makes countless mentions of the birth of Codentify within big tobacco and its deep ties to the industry it is mean to regulate.

inexto ties to codentify
Inexto actually tweeting about Codentify.

Here is a link to their tweet about Codentify in English.

And here is a link to a tweet about Codentify in French.

Whats more interesting is after I initially published this article on March 14th 2017, the Inexto account has changed its twitter handle. Their new handle is @InextoFr.

Inexto New old twitter slideshow
New and old Inexto twitter handles.

Since revealing these facts they have blocked me from twitter.

Inexto blocked me
Inexto blocked me from twitter 😦

 

Moving on to their Facebook page, it appears that in early January a compay page was opened.

Inexto facebook page.jpg
The official Inexto Facebook page

as of early January the new Inexto Facebook page had only 4 likes.

inexto 4 likes facebook
As of February 11th 2017 Inexto still only had 4 likes on

As of March 14th they have around 400. Once you look into who has liked their page it becomes apparent that almost no Europeans have liked the page. Interestingly, most of Inexto’s likes are from Middle Eastern Facebook users.

inexto arabic likes.jpg
A sampling of Inexto’s Facebook “fans.”

Only about 4 or 5 of their Facebook fans appear to be legitimately European, and all the others are mostly from Egypt.

According to a 2013 article on Adweek.com the average Facebook user likes between 40-70 pages. Most of the Inexto Facebook page fans have literally liked hundreds or thousands of other pages, further indicating the manufactured nature of their fan base.

5k likes
Many Inexto Facebook page followers have liked thousands of other pages.

Either Inexto is investing time in lobbying in Europe as a side gig and their real target audience is Egypt or they simply purchased likes on Facebook to strengthen the legitimacy of their brand.

Lastly, they have opened a new website called InextoNews.com. I suggest you look into that one yourselves and try and tell me what point it really serves.

All of this is in the context of the wider topic of big tobacco trying to distance themselves from the Codentify/Inexto products, despite tweeting about Codentify.

I have extensively covered the sale of Codentify and the formation of a new company called Inexto with no superficial ties to big tobacco. I have made mention in the past that this is an intentional strategy to rebrand Codentify as an independent product so it can be considered as a viable track and trace solution for tobacco products in the EU. In reality it is not.

Towards the end of 2016 Inexto stopped utilizing the term Codentify all together.

It is interesting to note that as of the end of January 2017, Inexto ceased to sell Codentify as a brand and has instead broken the technology up into four components using Inexto branding. I have mentioned in a past blog post that their website makes no mention of their history as a tool for the tobacco industry.

Last time I covered the story of their rebranding, I mentioned a sales presentation on Inexto that was posted online. Shortly after my article published it was removed.

inexto-slideshow-down
Inexto sales slideshow removed from the web.

It is important to note that these accounts are not linked to by the Inexto website but based on most of their content are likely official.

I am curious what changes will be made after the publication of this article.

Questions of Transparency in EU Heath Commission’s Tobacco Track and Trace Consultation

I have written twice now on the questionable hiring of PwC and Everis by the EU Health Commission to consult on adopting a track and trace solution for tobacco products in the EU.

After publishing my first article on the matter, which brought to light obvious ties between PwC and the tobacco industry, I began to work on a follow up. During the process of writing my follow up piece I turned to the commission itself for comment but received no answer in reply.

It was only after I brought the matter to the EU Ombudsman office that the commission took the time to respond to my inquiry.

Since publishing my first article I know of at least 3 European parliament members who wrote of their concerns to the commission as well.

Myself along with these members of parliament received rather vague responses from the commission.

Much has happened since these two articles where published. In December there was a stakeholders meeting and since then Everis has been tasked with conducting continued consultation work.

It is in light of the continued developments on the matter that I wrote to commission personnel as well as a spokesperson with a series of specific questions regarding the progress that Everis is taking.

Again, it took the commission over a week to respond my questions and they only did so after the intervention of the EU Ombudsman office and my bringing this to the attention of the tobacco control movement.

Below is the unedited question and answer discourse between myself and a commission spokesperson:

1) can You provide an update on the direction that the consultation is taking, specifically which of the three types of solutions is being considered: industry based, external or mixed solutions?

If your question refers to the policy options related to the model for marking products with unique identifiers, we are currently analysing and evaluating all the possible options and at the current stage no final decision has been taken.

2) What type of contact is taking place between PwC, Everis as well as the commission itself with the tobacco industry during this consultation process? Are any of the the above metioned bodies in touch with the tobacco industry between stakeholder workshops?

We wish to underline that the involvement of stakeholders and general public in this implementing process has been conducted in line with the rules on the Better Regulation and FCTC Article 5.3 . In this regard please note in particular that:

Following the Feasibility study (published in March 2015 http://ec.europa.eu/health//sites/health/files/tobacco/docs/2015_tpd_tracking_tracing_frep_en.pdf ) a targeted stakeholders consultations was conducted. The results of such consultation are published here https://ec.europa.eu/health/tobacco/consultations/2015_tpd_consultation_en

A second consultation, addressed to all stakeholders and the general public, was launched following the publication of the Inception Impact Assessment, https://ec.europa.eu/health/tobacco/consultations/2016_traceability_security_features_en

As prescribed by the Better Regulation rules, a stakeholder workshop was held in December 2016. A summary record of the meeting has been published here https://ec.europa.eu/health/tobacco/consultations/2016_stakeholderworkshop_tpd_en

The opinions received in the context of these consultations have been analysed and taken into account appropriately by the external contractor, Everis.

3) Does the commission or its consultants qualify Inexto as an independent, mixed or tobacco industry solution?

Please note that the role of the Commission in its implementation work is not to select any individual set of proprietary technologies, but rather to determine the technical standards for the establishment and the operation of the tracking and tracing system, as provided by Article 15(11) of Directive 2014/40/EU.

4) How do you plan on keeping the public up to date on this issue in between stakeholder workshops?

In addition to the requirements prescribed under the Better Regulation framework, summary records of meetings of the Subgroup on traceability and security features, as well as all other meetings with Member States, are published on DG SANTE official website.
Finally please note that in addition to the consultation of experts in the Member States the draft texts of delegated and implementing acts will be made public for 4 weeks on the Europa Website, allowing stakeholder feedbacks.

5) Can you please elaborate on what the exact roles of PwC and Everis are in the consultation process? We saw Everis heavily featured at the last stakeholders workshop but did not see any real presence of PwC. What is PwC’s role exactly?

The actual work is carried out by Everis. None of the members of the contractor’s team is currently working for PwC.

6) what will the consultation process look like from here through may (the next stakeholders workshop)?

In the context of the present implementation process the consultation with stakeholders and general public follows the rules prescribed by the Better Regulation. Please note that the consultation strategy related to the secondary legislation under Articles 15 and 16 of Directive 2014/40/EU was published in July 2016 (https://ec.europa.eu/health/sites/health/files/tobacco/docs/2016_consultation_strategy_en.pdf ).

7) who specifically are you in touch with from the tobacco industry?

Please see reply to question n. 2.

8) Who are you specifically in touch with from Inexto?

Please see reply to question n. 2.

This, of course, only raises more concerns about the level of transparency and practices taking place regarding the track and trace solution much needed in the EU.

All of this is taking place in the shadow of the sale of a tobacco industry produced solution called Codentify, that the industry sold off to a third party that still contains questionable ties to big tobacco. The system has since been renamed and re-branded as Inexto. This is also a topic I have covered extensively.

I have even gone so far as to produce a video about the ongoing ties between big tobacco and Inexto.

The delayed response from the EU Health Commission only raises concerns that I mentioned in the above video.

I hope with the publication and sharing of this post additional responsible actors in Europe will seek clarity on this matter from the commission.

If anyone wants to write to them on this important issue please do so.

You can reach their spokesperson at: Enrico.BRIVIO@ec.europa.eu

Inexto and Codentify: Connecting the Dots.

As my readers know by now, Codentify is the tracking and tracing system proposed by the tobacco industry as the solution for governments to meet their obligations under Article 8 of the Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products when it will enter into force.

The Codentify system was developed and patented, and the trademark registered, by Philip Morris International in 2006. To promote the system as an “industry standard,” the four major tobacco multinationals, PMI, BAT, JTI and Imperial Tobacco Group (ITG) created in 2011 the Digital Coding and Tracking Association (DCTA), based in Zurich, Switzerland.

2
2006 Codentify Patent

Codentify has been criticized for the inadequacy of its technology with the requirements of the IT Protocol. Furthermore, the role of the tobacco industry in controlling and promoting this system raises serious concern, notably because the past and current record of the tobacco companies’ involvement in illicit trade of tobacco products, and with respect to Article 5.3 of the FCTC which requires that the tobacco industry be kept at arm’s length of governmental decisions. In their 2013 paper, Joossens and Gilmore indicated that the tobacco industry had devised a strategy to circumvent this concern by licensing the Codentify technology “to ‘credible’ third party providers who would in turn promote Codentify on their behalf.”

Last June the system was sold off to a so called “third party. The DCTA announced in a press release that its four members had signed and completed an agreement “by which Inexto, an affiliate of the French Group Impala, has acquired the DCTA’s track & trace and product authentication technology,” adding that “a specialized and independent technology company is now best placed to further develop this technology.”

I initially helped break the story in June of 2016 in an EU Observer article on the subject of the sale.

Since then I also indicated based on my sources that the Codentify product will be broken up and re-branded which is since evident in this latest Inexto/Codentify brochure which today makes no mention of Codentify or their tobacco industry past. The above mentioned brochure has since been removed from the web.

inexto-slide
Inexto’s 4 technological offerings based on Codentify, since removed from the web.

Since the publishing of this article the above mentioned presentation has been removed. Today the link appears below with a 404 error.

Inexto Slideshow down.jpg
Inexto products slideshow removed from the internet after the publication of this blog.

How independent is this new company? Its statutes are completely anonymous and offer no clue to answer this question. They simply indicate that the company maintains a list of owners which can be “accessed at any time in Switzerland.”

What we do know is a number of their key leadership roles are filled by the creators of Codentify back in PMI. This is a topic I have covered heavily in the past.

Inexto’s head office is located at avenue Edouard-Dapples 7 in Lausanne, not far from PMI’s headquarters. Interestingly, this address does not correspond to an office building but to a residential apartment building, with about 15 occupants.

inexto HQ.jpg
Inexto offices at avanue Edouard-Dapples 7 in Lausanne

After some web-searching of all building resident, none of the tenants had the profile to host the new company, except perhaps one…

inexto doorbell.jpg
Inexto doorbell in same building as a tobacco industry executive.

Sylviane Marguerat Jendly, who is … Manager Procurement Switzerland at PMI.

Marguerat CV.jpg
Marguerat’s linkedin CV title.

Below is her address listing publicly available on the internet.

marguerat address listing.jpg
Proof of Marguerat’s address publicly accessible online.

Perhaps Marguerat, was the one to suggest to Inexto a convenient and discrete office space just blocks from PMI’s offices.

map-of-pmi-to-inexto-offices
Inexto’s office is just a 5 minute drive from PMI’s.

These bits of information about the company, together with the opacity otherwise surrounding its creation, suggests that Inexto may have links with PMI. Consequently, regulators and policy decision makers who might have to deal with Inexto should be careful before assuming that the company is independent from the tobacco industry. They should request that solid and trustworthy evidence of its independence be provided by the new company. In particular, they should request Inexto to produce the list of its shareholders and copies of all its contractual agreements with DCTA and its member companies, notably Philip Morris, including full information about the conditions under which intellectual property rights for Codentify were transferred to the new company.

Inexto: Big Tobacco’s Codentify in Disguise

Several months ago I broke the story that the Big Tobacco’s DCTA sold Codentify to  Impala and a new entity was formed called Inexto to continue to market the tobacco industry’s created solution for serializing tobacco products as a tracking and tracing tax system.

I recently decided to take a look at their website and low and behold no mention of their product’s tobacco industry past or almost any other substantive information for that matter at all.

I highly suggest you take a look at their website for yourself as below I have laid out several elements I believe their site is missing:

1) PROPER TITLE

inexto-logo
The new homepage for Codentify is Inexto

Firstly, their new homepage makes no mention of the company’s product being the brainchild of PMI and makes the same old false branding claim that Codentify made back in the day.

Below is a more proper title made with similar level of graphic design as their actual site.

new-logo
Enter a caption

2) ABOUT THE PRODUCT

Inexto’s site provides no actual information about the product or its past and so I have taken the liberty to write it for them below:

Inexto is the latest step taken by big tobacco to distance themselves from their self created serialization product, originally called Codentify, and rebrand it as a trustworthy track and trace system that the EU can rely on in order to properly monitor the industry for taxation purposes.

Inexto’s Codentify was dreamed up by and developed within PMI and originally marketed to their competitor’s as a serialization product designed to store as limited useful information as possible in order to avoid their competitors from understanding sensitive product data. When the EU decided to seek a tool to implement across Europe in order to track and trace tobacco products, big tobacco decided to rebrand their already existing tool as a reasonable solution.

After great efforts on behalf of the tobacco control movement against the Codentify ploy, big tobacco felt obliged to distance the product from themselves in a last ditch effort to deceive the EU into thinking there is oversight.

Make no mistake, Inexto is Codentify and Codentify is an inherent part of the tobacco industry.

3) OUR TEAM

There is absolutely no mention of the manpower behind Inexto on their website. Tfhe good news is that Linkedin helped me easily produce their corporate leadership bios. featured below:

Erwan Fradet was a senior engineer in PMI’s tracking and security activities over the past 10+ years, in fact, since 2010 he was Codentify’s project manager. But where does he work these days? He is Inexto’s new Chief Technology Officer!

3.png
Screenshot from Erwan Fradet’s linkedin from June 2016

Take a look at Inexto’s Development Manager, Nicolas Stubi, He has a rather long resume filled with tobacco industry roles, Inexto is no different.

5.png
Screen shot from Nicolas Stubi’s Linkedin from June 2016

Those are some pretty serious tobacco industry resumes for an “independent” company.

In conclusion Inexto is nothing more then a tobacco industry sham and their vague website is as superficial as their plan to “sell” Codentify to a “third party”.

All of what i said is pretty clear the only question left is: will they take my advice and update their website?

Connections between GD SANTE, PWC and PMI Continued

logos

Two weeks ago I published an initial report on the fact that DG SANTE has hired PWC and Everis to conduct both a feasibility and implementation study of potential track and trace solutions to be implemented across the EU.

My article highlighted the fact that PWC has deep and open ties with the tobacco industry: mainly that they are the auditors of PMI and have done other work for other tobacco giants in the past.

pwc
PMI’s website citing PWC as their auditors.

After discovering and publishing this information I inquired via the DG SANTE press office on the matter, to no reply.

Only after reaching out to several MEP’s and even the EU Ombudsman’s office did DG SANTE provide a long response from spokesperson Enrico Brivio which is featured below:

The Commission’s executive agency, Chafea, concluded a contract with the consortium of PwC and Everis for carrying out the implementation analysis regarding the technical specifications and other key elements for a future EU system for traceability and security features in the field of tobacco products. To avoid any kind of doubt, the ultimate responsibility for shaping an EU system remains in the hands of the European Commission, which for this purpose will prepare necessary implementing and delegated acts as envisaged in Articles 15 and 16 of the TPD

The Commission has taken multiple steps to ensure that a new contract for conducting the Implementation Study, which is intended to support the Commission in preparing the implementing and delegated acts as envisaged under Articles 15 and 16 of the Tobacco Products Directive 2014/40/EU , is free of the conflict of interest, in particular with the tobacco industry.

 Both consortium members, PwC and Everis, provided the necessary declarations in this regard. Furthermore, the project team’s members: (a) exclude at the present stage the employees of PwC, (b) are subject to personal declarations of the absence of conflict of interest and (c) where required are protected with Chinese walls within their structures.

The work of the project team, including potential conflict of interests, is continuously monitored by the Commission’s services. The key outcomes of the project will be also scrutinised externally, including discussions with stakeholders (including health NGOs), the Subgroup on Traceability composed of national experts and a panel of independent experts.

I remind you also that DG SANTE in particular has been praised in the recent past by the Ombudsman for the transparency of its procedures.

I inquired further, asking for elaboration on what type of “monitoring” will be taking place as well as what declerations PWC and Everis provided. As of the publication of this article I have received no further elaboration.

My concern is not intentional misconduct of the part of DG SANTE, I just want to insure there is no tobacco industry meddling in such an important consultation.

Further elaboration is needed.

My ultimate fear is the tobacco industry could influence PWCs recommendations in a way that suggest since Codentify has been sold to Inexto that it is now somehow independent.

I will be investigating the sale of Codentify further and already have some interesting leads which I hope to share in the coming weeks.

 

 

Connections between DG SANTE, PWC and PMI.

logos

On June 22nd the EU Commission Tobacco working-group’s  Subcommittee on Tracibility and Security Features convened a meeting in which DG SANTE informed the committee that they have subcontracted consulting work to two firms to conduct both a feasibility and implementation study of potential track and trace solutions to be implemented across the EU. The question is: are these third party firms truly independent of tobacco industry influence.

proof of contract.jpg
Screenshot from DC SANTE document citing PWC and Everis as consultants on tractability solutions.

The Tobacco industry has produced and promoted a system called Codentify which they have begun implementing across Europe in an attempt to create an unavoidable reality in which their system must be chosen by default. In actuality this system may not even track or trace products and as the health conscious community raised concerns about the systems capabilities the tobacco industry sold the system off to a, so called, “Third Party” company named Inexto in an attempt to distance the product from themselves. This story I proudly broke to the EU observer some months ago.

The World Health Organization’s (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) has explicitly stated that Codentify does not meet their standard for a solid track and trace solution for the industry.

The two company’s assigned the consulting task by DG SANTE  are PWC and Everis. The hiring of such firms came as some surprise to those watching this committee closely and when the firms names where announced it was important to explore if these firms have an intrinsic interest in supporting a tobacco industry produced solution.

After just an initial search it is clear that PWC has strong ties to the tobacco industry which put their objectivity in inherent question. PWC are the primary auditors for Philip Moris International (PMI) and have in the past done auditing work for British American Tobacco (BAT) as well.

pwc
Proof from PMI’s website of an existing relationship with PWC.

Although this is just preliminary information I will continue to delve deeper into this issue and publish as more information comes to light.

 

Initially  DG SANTE refused to respond to requests for clarity on these matters but in recent days have responded. I will be including their full response in a follow up article.