Update Cubacigar Benelux vs The Netherlands. Today, the judges came to a verdict in the Cubacigar Benelux vs The Netherlands case. And the result is negative. For now it looks like that all the requests of Cubacigar Benelux have been denied. Cubacigar Benelux and their lawyer will analyze the verdict in the weeks to come, to see if further steps can be taken.
What was the case about?
Back in 2014, the E.U. implemented a new regulation called Tobacco Products Directive and it would become effective on May 20th, 2016. And the TPD-II, as it’s called for short, places limits on the sale and merchandising of tobacco and tobacco-related products in the EU.
In the TPD-II, cigars below three grams in weight are differentiated from cigars above three grams in weight. Each member state, even though it is EU regulation, was allowed to exempt certain products and most states decided to exempt the above three grams category. The Netherlands however, decided to only exempt cigars above three grams registered before May 20th, 2016. All premium cigars above three grams, introduced after May 20th, 2016 would be regulated the same as cigars below three grams. That meant huge warning stickers on the outside of the box, full color with pictures. Not only on the top, but also on the back and sides plus on the inside of the lid.
More packaging regulations
And now the Dutch government is taking it a step further. From July 1st, 2019, the regulation on packaging will be even stricter. The packaging isn’t allowed to be embossed anymore, gold or any other shiny colors are no longer allowed to be used on new introductions on the Dutch market, backdated till 20 May 2016. That would mean that the highly collectible Habanos jars would not be allowed anymore, Cuban limited editions with the golden secondary rings would not be allowed, the Cuban (Gran) Reserva in the shiny black lacquered boxes would not be allowed anymore.
Cubacigar Benelux, the distributor of Cuban cigars in The Netherlands, decided that enough is enough. They sued the Dutch government. Cubacigar Managing Director Tony Hoevenaars explained why, in an interview, why the company decided to go to court. The limited editions, whether it’s the yearly limited edition releases or the rare releases like jars, are highly collectible and will lose all their collectible value if they have to be repacked with the original, and often very beautiful, packaging to be destroyed.
It would diminish the value of the limited editions while adding cost price due to new packaging and extra staff to repack the cigars. Considering that the surrounding, and fellow EU, countries have exempted premium cigars from this regulation, it is clear that cigar aficionados would buy those products elsewhere, leaving the product to be unsold. That would create incredible problems for both Cubacigar as for the four La Casa del Habano shops in The Netherlands, who, according to Hoevenaars, get 40 percent of their turnover from the limited releases.