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Ebay’s New CBD Trial Could Have ‘Knock-On Effect’ For Other Ecommerce Platforms

CBD products from a raft of sellers are now set to be sold on Ebay UK ‘permanently’, marking a dramatic shift in sentiments from one of the world’s largest retailers and an ‘important moment for the industry’. 

Ebay, which has historically enforced a strict ban on the sale of CBD products on its platform, announced last month that it had launched a new pilot programme in England and Wales, allowing a select group of brands to list their products. 

The ecommerce giant told BusinessCann that this initiative is ‘not a temporary trial’, and that it intends for compliant CBD products to ‘be available permanently on Ebay’. 

According to Phil Glyn, Commercial Director at Vitality CBD, one of the few brands to be invited into Ebay’s pilot, the move could create a ‘snowball effect’ for other key digital players to follow suit. 

Ebay’s Pilot

The pilot programme, announced publicly on February 22 2022, is understood to have initially been planned for launch in October 2021 but was reportedly delayed over issues with selling CBD products in every country in the UK. 

Ebay told BusinessCann that it has ‘approved 20 CBD brands for launch across 15 individual Ebay stores’, including Love Hemp, Yooma Wellness, British Cannabis and Blossom. 

Rather than mix products in with more general items in its ‘Health & Wellness’ subsection, Ebay has launched a dedicated category for CBD. 

Like its former stablemate PayPal, Ebay has until now imposed a blanket global ban on the sale of CBD products, but has often been criticised for inconsistent policing of this policy. 

When asked about the 180-degree shift in policy, which coincided with some long-awaited developments in the Novel Foods CBD approval process, Ebay said that developments in the regulatory landscape had encouraged it to ‘open up’ to CBD. 

“The regulatory framework around CBD products has evolved, enabling businesses to sell CBD food and cosmetic products in compliance with applicable regulations. 

“Ebay has therefore decided to open up this category so that approved sellers, in compliance with applicable regulations, can offer CBD products that are already available for purchase through both online and high street retailers.”

While vendors are able to apply to become approved CBD sellers, a process it says can take ‘several weeks’, Ebay says all products must be in the process of being validated by the FSA. 

“Sellers comply with the UK regulations applicable to the sale of CBD food products and follow the authorization process set up by the FSA before placing the product in the market. If a validated application is not authorised by the FSA, the seller will remove the product as per the FSA guidelines.”

A Step Forward for the Industry

CBD companies have struggled for years to be accepted by traditional institutions like banks, insurance companies, payment providers and third party retailers. 

Sentiments have begun to change in recent years thanks to the explosion of popularity in CBD, seeing a growing number of brands launch their products on the shelves of leading UK supermarkets and health retailers. 

Online retail has been much slower to accept the industry, in large part due to the complexities of policing listings on giant marketplaces like Ebay and Amazon.

Mr Glyn, whose company Vitality was one of the first to be stocked in major retailers including Tesco, Asda, Boots and Lloyds Pharmacy, said in his experience retailers are more open to stocking CBD products if they know they are stocked by their rivals. 

“Lots of retailers didn’t want to adopt it. But then once the first one came on, the snowball effect happened.”

He added, that the world of ecommerce was likely to follow a similar path, and that Ebay’s move was likely already a reaction to Amazon’s CBD pilot scheme, launched in 2020

“Amazon, I believe, are pro cannabis and they needed to select a European country to start a pilot scheme. They obviously saw movement in what the FSA were doing so they selected the UK because it’s a burgeoning market and it’s going to be regulated shortly. It could be the first country to be regulated when it happens. 

“Products on Ebay are very similar to Amazon, so it was only a matter of time, otherwise Ebay was in danger of potentially falling behind in revenue opportunities.”

“It’s one step further to acceptance of CBD and cannabis within the retail space, and it will hopefully have a knock-on effect with the other ecommerce platforms as well.”

Now CBD products are finding their way onto major ecommerce platforms’ listings, Mr Glyn says the next major milestone for the industry will be online advertising. 

He cited the fact that Amazon still prevents CBD sellers from advertising via sponsored links on its platform in the UK, despite inviting them to list products. 

“The key next to digital players who need to follow suit desperately for the industry to be successful, are Facebook and Google. 

“Because once you unlock those, then you obviously have the ability to advertise and have an even playing field to really promote your brand, which we’ve struggled to do.”

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