Michael Kollaras, Director of Tobacco Imports Company (TIC), a company owned by Kollaras & Co, has responded angrily to claims by British American Tobacco Australia (BATA) that some of the brands owned by TIC are non-compliant.
TheShout has obtained a letter to customers from Kollaras, which states the company intends to speak to the ACCC about some of the claims made by BATA.
The letter states:
It has come to our attention that a number of industry stakeholders have recently received a letter from British American Tobacco Australia (BATA) which refers, to cigarette brands owned and distributed by the Tobacco Imports Company (TIC) – Cleveland, Brooklyn, King Street and Regent Street.
TIC’s strict quality control policy is and always has been in place to ensure that every product fully complies with all applicable laws and regulations. This is the case with all of our tobacco products – including every TIC brand listed above, all of which fully comply with the Tobacco Plain Packaging Act.
It is surprising that BATA would take such strong interest in the strict enforcement of Australian tobacco plain packaging given that BATA strongly lobbied against the legislation, unsuccessfully challenged it in the High Court, and supported an unsuccessful challenge to its validity before the World Trade Organisation. As a result, we are led to believe that BATA’s primary motivation is to aggressively defend its market position.
BATA also draws attention to rules and regulations relating to tobacco duty and excise in its letter. For absolutely clarity all products distributed by TIC are imported lawfully, with all taxes and duties paid.
Additionally, we have been informed by a number of customers that BATA representatives have suggested that stocking the above TIC brands (which BATA inaccurately refers to as non-compliant) would be in breach of BATA’s trading terms. Please be informed: Should any organisation threaten to decrease or cease your trading terms by simply stocking a competitors’ product is anti-competitive conduct which breaches Section 47 of the Australian Competition and Consumer Act and will result serious penalties. TIC fully intends on discussing this issue with the ACCC.
As you know, BATA is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the giant British corporation British American Tobacco plc, with last year’s revenue totalling in excess of £20 billion. We are surprised that the activities of a small Australian, family-owned company like ours would cause BATA so much concern, that they felt the need to contact our customers. We can only assume that this is due to our renowned product quality, pricing and service.
A spokesperson for BATA responded to questions from TheShout about Kollaras’ letter, saying: “British American Tobacco Australia (BATA) denies it has engaged in anti-competitive conduct.
“What BATA has done, is draw retailers’ attention to a determination by the Commonwealth Department of Health regarding the packaging of tobacco products that do not comply with the Tobacco Plain Packaging Act.
“There are potentially serious consequences, for both suppliers and retailers, for selling tobacco products that do not comply with the requirements of the Act.
“BATA has invested considerable time, effort and resources to ensure our products are compliant with the law and we expect the same of our competitors.”