PayPal is one of the biggest online payment platforms in the world. It's a popular choice for both retailers and consumers, making it easy to make and collect payments online. However, towards the end of 2020, PayPal made the decision to ban vape retailers from using the platform. This means that anyone buying vaping products online will not be able to use PayPal during the checkout process. Instead, they will have to make use of other payment gateways and services. Fortunately, there are plenty of other options, and customers can still pay using cards and other payment providers. At Vape Town, we accept Visa and MasterCard so it's still easy to order your vape supplies.
In November, PayPal chose to ban payments for vape products, instituting a 180-day ban and freeze of funds for the accounts that are hit. This meant that some big online vape retailers in the UK and elsewhere were hit by a surprise ban and even individuals trying to make purchases were affected too. The sudden change meant that many small businesses were left struggling without access to their cash, and hurriedly trying to find alternative payment systems so that they could continue to service their customers.
But why has PayPal made this decision? The PayPal Acceptable Use Policy currently says that pre-approval is required for anyone to accept payments for a number of services. Among these is "selling alcoholic beverages, non-cigarette tobacco products, e-cigarettes or prescription drugs/devices". They say that if you get in touch with PayPal and provide your business information, they can consider giving pre-approval to sell these products. However, many of the companies that have been affected were not aware of this impending change and had their PayPal accounts closed without warning. The standard user agreement doesn't mention anything about vaping products or e-cigarettes.
Although PayPal suggests in their Acceptable Use Policy that pre-approval can be given, other retailers in the UK, such as Vape Storm, have said that this approval is not extended even when requested. This suggests that there is still effectively a ban on vape products and e-cigarettes, even though PayPal makes it appear as if retailers have a chance to gain approval to sell their products.
While PayPal can make their own decisions about who they do and don't want to serve, many people were disappointed in the lack of communication and warning from the payment platform. This has been particularly disruptive for both vape shops and customers during the COVID-19 pandemic, as brick-and-mortar shops have not been open to serve the public and many have relied on online retailers instead.
Online retailers of vape products have found other solutions for online payments. The IBVTA, the UK's only trade association focused on the independent vape industry, has partnered with WorldPay, another well-known online payment gateway. They also provided advice to retailers to help them navigate the change.
Although the change to PayPal's policy has seemingly come out of nowhere, some people have reported problems with buying and selling e-cigarettes as far back as 2012. Some people began to see the effects of the ban much earlier in 2020, getting messages that their activity was inconsistent with PayPal's user agreement and that their balance would be held for 180 days, or around six months.
What does this change really mean for the vape industry? Realistically, it means that online vape stores will no longer be offering PayPal as a payment option and using it as a payment gateway. It's unlikely that PayPal will provide permission for vape companies to use their service. While some consumers might feel that this is inconvenient, there are still other ways for them to pay online. Stores like Vape Town can still accept online payments via debit and credit cards, and many sites are sure to offer other digital wallet and payment service options.
The impact for people buying vape products and e-cigarettes is minimal. Although it's inconvenient to not be able to use PayPal to make your purchases, you can still easily buy from your favourite vaping stores online. Just check that the website offers a secure payment method before you make your purchase. The good news is that many online stores will also save your card details. Once you have made your first purchase with a particular retailer, it should be easier to continue making purchases.