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

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