Source: Elf Bar

Disposable vape giant ElfBar says it is withdrawing regulation breaching devices from the UK market, following crisis talks with the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Authority (MHRA) and vaping trade bodies on Friday.

The Chinese-owned brand said it would be working with a Trading Standards Primary Authority to “ensure the withdrawal is carried out effectively”.

However, major vape retailers spoken to by The Grocer said they had yet to receive any communication from ElfBar on the withdrawal, with several having been told by ElfBar account managers to continue selling as normal.

It is understood ElfBar is to meet with Trading Standards later this week. “We will update all of our distribution and retail partners when we have agreed how this corrective action will be enacted,” ElfBar said.

“Our obligations were made abundantly clear without equivocation, and we have admitted that we have fallen short in some areas,” the brand added.

Early last week, ElfBar – the fastest-growing grocery brand in any category last year – said e-liquid tanks of a size designed for other markets had been “inadvertently fitted” to some UK products, meaning the devices contained illegal amounts of nicotine liquid.

All the major supermarkets moved to remove ElfBar 600 devices from shelves following a Daily Mail investigation that exposed the oversized tanks, with some removing the entire ElfBar range from sale.

In a statement, ElfBar said it would now be investigating “all other vape products” it imports into the UK and take “any actions we deem to be required to ensure compliance across our entire product set”.

It is unclear whether the product withdrawal will involve retailers or consumers. One industry insider estimated there to be around 10 million ElfBar devices in warehouses across the UK.

“I don’t think it will be manageable to recall through retailers as many retailers will not be keeping track of which batch numbers sold to which customers for specific flavours of specific product lines, particularly as there is no legal requirement to do so and particularly at the rate of restocking required to keep up with the ElfBar market,” said one major online vape retailer.

“Unless they provide a general umbrella indemnity for all retailers that stock the ElfBar, the only other meaningful option I can see would be a recall from customers directly to ElfBar through their website or some other means,” they added.

Other retailers said they were taking legal advice regarding the withdrawal.

ElfBar said the product withdrawal was recommended by the MHRA, and agreed to by the brand. The meeting was attended by both vaping trade bodies – the UK Vaping Industry Association (UKVIA) and Independent British Vape Trade Association – despite ElfBar being a member of either group.

The UKVIA said ElfBar’s decision to withdraw ElfBar 600s was “absolutely the right one”.

“If the industry is going to be accepted as playing a leading role in helping Britain achieve its smoke-free targets, it has to demonstrate the highest levels of compliance, standards and responsibility,” the UKVIA said.