British couple forced to shut down fledgling chocolate business

UK couple planned to sell British chocolate to the Americans, so why were they forced to close?

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A British couple, Robert Jeffreys (30) and Rebecca Gerken (26), intended to cash in on a shortage of British Cadbury products in the US, by getting people to sign up for regular home deliveries of chocolate sent direct from the UK. Unfortunately, after receiving acres of media coverage in the US, they attracted the interest of big business - and their fledgling enterprise was doomed.

CNN reported that the idea came about earlier this month, when Hershey filed a law suit to stop a company called Let's Buy British Imports from supplying Cadbury products to the US. The American firm has the right to make and sell its own versions of certain bars in the US, and wants to stop the British versions filling shops. Once the suit was filed, LBB immediately stopped imports.

Purist Cadbury fans snapped up their favourites while they could, and the panic buying of British chocolate hit the headlines. Jeffreys and Gerken heard the news, and thought there was a loophole they could exploit - by selling direct to consumers. As a result they set up the British Chocolate Club, where customers signed up to receive regular chocolate deliveries by post.

Doomed

Their business caught the attention of chocolate fans in the US, and gained a huge amount of coverage. Sadly, this drew the attention of the lawyers, and today they have taken down their website, and put up a message entitled "Short but not really very sweet."

They explained: "We started this business quickly in order to try and meet a demand and seize upon an opportunity. We researched the idea and concluded it was feasible and legal. Then we watched a news report on the BBC that stated that a similar company was doing what we wanted to do completely legally. So that gave us enough confidence to begin."

However, they added: "Unfortunately that confidence was misplaced. We can not provide the service we wanted to and so we must close our very short lived business."

They have refunded all their customers, and as although they had already shipped some chocolate to their first customers they refunded their cash too. They added: "please accept the chocolate as a gift."

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