Social media giant Facebook has shut down four groups dedicated to the illegal sale of duty-free cigarettes and tobacco for profit following an investigation in Jersey, Express can confirm.
Facebook came under fire by Customs officials who said that it had failed to act on several requests to shut the illicit selling networks down last week.
Islanders are only allowed to bring up to 200 duty-free cigarettes or 250g of rolling tobacco into the island for personal use.
But an Express investigation revealed that rising impôts on tobacco, which have increased annually well above the cost of living, has led thousands of islanders to frequent Facebook groups where duty-free smoking products can be bought and sold – against the law.
Not only did the groups raise concerns about potentially thousands of lost impôts revenue, meaning less money to invest into public services, but the ability for under 18s to purchase cigarettes and tobacco.
Pictured: Despite being clearly marked with ‘for duty free sale only’ warnings, Express found that rolling tobacco pouches were offered for between £12 and £15, while cigarette multipacks combined with alcohol were able to fetch as much as £90 on the groups.
Concerned by the issue, but without the power to shut down the groups, Customs and States officials wrote to the provider but said that their request was ignored. A follow-up by the States’ Communications Department also failed to receive a response.
Months later, Facebook finally launched a probe last week, which resulted in four groups being permanently disabled for violating their Commerce Policies: ‘Jersey Tobacco Share’, ‘Jersey Tax Free Tobacco’, ‘Jersey Tobacco New Group New Rules!’, and ‘Jersey Tobacco, cigs and burning tobacco only!’
“Selling or advertising tobacco products is not allowed on Facebook. We use a combination of technology, human review and reports from our community to find and remove any content or account that violates these policies. Our work in this area is always improving as we continue to strengthen the ways we review and enforce our policies,” a Facebook spokesperson explained.
Gary Le Neveu, Customs and Immigration’s Assistant Director of Frontiers, welcomed the decision.
He told Express: “A duty free allowance may be claimed on arrival in Jersey by a person, not under 17 years of age, only if those duty free goods are not intended for any commercial purpose. This Service is therefore reassured to note that by enforcing its Community Standards and Commerce Policies, Facebook has closed accounts which were apparently facilitating the onward sale of duty free tobacco products.”
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