Month: August 2020

Scrapping Public Health England should only be the beginning

Scrapping Public Health England, a body with the ambition of nannying every Brit, is a significant step towards enhancing personal responsibility and allowing greater freedom. But there’s much further to go.

The UK government should drastically change its approach to healthcare and lifestyle regulations to create an enduring change. With 320,000 confirmed cases of Covid-19 across the country and close to 41,000 dead, there is an urgent need to find a scapegoat. PHE is problematic for many reasons, but it is hardly the root of the UK’s failed Covid response. Enormous centralisation and bureaucracy, on the other hand, are what the UK government needs to do away with. The response to the pandemic gives us clear examples.

It took the UK over six weeks to catch up with other developed countries’ testing capabilities. Germany’s decentralised and private laboratory network had already tested over two per cent of its population while the UK had tested a meagre 0.7 per cent. Britain’s centralised testing system, and its failure to scale up Covid-19 tests, might help explain part of the mortality gap between the two countries.

Testing, as we have learned, should be decentralised, which makes it more easily accessible to all groups of the population. The US government failed to stop the pandemic early on for a similar reason. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA)’s initial regulations prevented state and private labs from developing their own coronavirus diagnostic tests.

During the crucial weeks of February and March, it was only possible to get tested for Covid-19 in the US at the Centre for Disease and Control (CDC). The consequences were devastating. As a result of a massive shortage of tests, many undetected cases speeded up the spread of Covid. On 29 February, the US government allowed private labs to begin developing their own tests.

On 16 March, the procedure was decentralised further, making it possible for commercial manufacturers to distribute and labs to use new commercially developed before obtaining an FDA’s Emergency Use Authorisation (EUA). Not long after the red tape had been cut, private labs went on developing tests that were notably more effective, allowing many more people to get tested.

The centralisation at the NHS has also contributed to its vulnerability towards external shocks such as Covid-19. Decentralised hospital systems that promote private competition and patient choice have proven to be much more resilient, as Germany’s system demonstrates.

With that in mind, introducing more market mechanisms in the NHS would not mean that patients would be denied care – you can have universal healthcare in a social insurance model too. Having more private hospitals does not necessarily lead to fewer hospital beds, but a better allocation of skills and resources. Indeed, it allowed Germany to scale up its ICU capacity, as well as keeping services such as cancer treatments and screenings open in different locations.

Another reason not to get overjoyed about the season finale of the Public Health England’s reign is that it would continue to deal with the agency’s other non-Covid public health work, such as obesity policy, until the spring. Boris has set out to introduce radical anti-obesity measures, and there is every reason to expect the PHE will contribute its most poisonous ideas to that debate. One last time.

While free-marketers like me have been cheering the fall of the PHE with sugary milkshakes and burgers, health secretary Matt Hancock announced that nannying will be “embedded right across government… and in the work of every single local authority. We will use this moment to consult widely on how we can embed health improvement more deeply across the board.”

Even without PHE, we need to look at health issues, such as obesity, through the prism of innovation, education and personal responsibility. PHE’s better health marketing campaign to promote a healthy lifestyle is just one part of Boris’ anti-obesity approach, which tells us that even without institutions such as PHE, nannying will likely continue to flourish. That’s where we need a fundamental mindset change, not just an institutional one.

Abolishing old agencies and setting up new ones often gives the impression that such actions will have a positive lasting impact on our lives. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. While it is tempting to think that merely putting an end to the PHE will help make the UK better prepared for health crises, it is naive, to say the least. Neither will it move the needle away from paternalism. But it’s a great start!

Originally published here.


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org

Now They’re Coming After Your Delivery Apps

Throughout the course of the pandemic, the world of commerce has shifted primarily online. That’s made online retail, digital services, and delivery apps a godsend for millions of us sequestered in our homes.

This entirely new sector of the economy has allowed us to safely buy, enjoy, and use goods and services without the risk of coronavirus. Now it’s possible to enjoy the best drinks and food in just a few minutes, delivered by courier straight to your door.

Finally, a silver lining!

Alas, no: a group of organizations is looking to upend and halt those deliveries of restaurant meals to your home.

A new coalition calling itself Protect Our Restaurants is calling on state and local government to cap the commissions allowed on delivery service apps, and for the FTC to take action against delivery companies like Grubhub, Uber Eats, Postmates, and Doordash.

That would severely affect your ability to hit up a delivery app for a hot meal at your convenience. What gives?

The coalition is made up of organizations such as The American Sustainable Business Association, The American Economic Liberties Project, and the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, with the stated goal of “persuading policymakers to regulate food delivery apps so they can’t use their market power to exploit restaurants and take money out of our local economies.”

They claim delivery companies, the same ones that have empowered consumers, given vast new capabilities to restaurants, and provided good income to couriers, are “exploiting” each of these groups in pursuit of the almighty dollar.

The same claims were made in a class-action lawsuit filed earlier this year by consumers in New York who claimed these companies “prevent competition, limit consumer choice and force restaurants to agree to illegal contracts”. We’re no strangers to lawsuit abuse.

There are more than a few reasons to believe they’re wrong.

COMMISSION

Earlier this year, pre-pandemic, the NPD group estimated delivery orders in the United States to represent just 3% of all restaurant orders, and it’s risen as high as 7% in July 2020. Likely more now.

That means more and more customers are using food delivery apps to get the food they once ordered in restaurants, but to their homes.

Even before then, a prime complaint area of the coalition mentioned above and similar parties is the commission charged by these various food delivery apps as a fee for delivery and all other services they provide.

For orders placed through a delivery app to a restaurant, the app charges either a flat or percentage-based fee as a commission, which funds the logistics, the courier’s pay, and marketing costs associated with being in the app. This amount varies between 13.5% and 40%, depending on which options a restaurant agrees to when they sign up.

It’s that variance in commission rates that so enrages activists in this space. In one highly-circulated Facebook post, one restaurant owner claimed Grubhub collected more than 60% in commission (another look reveals the owner also paid for promotions and discounts on the app, and also had several cancellations and adjustments that would account for the larger share in commissions charged by Grubhub). Add to that plenty more anecdotes of high fees circulating social media.

In response, the cities of Washington, D.C., Seattle, and San Francisco have already capped commission rates at 15%, and a bevy of other city councils are lining up to join them. Many activists are now calling on more cities to do the same, and even lower the cap down to 5%.

While these caps on commission are well intended, they are actually counter-productive.

It will mean fewer order volumes that can be processed, less money will be available to couriers who sign up to deliver for the app, and higher prices to compensate for lost income. That would hurt restaurants, couriers, and consumers themselves who depend on these services.

And considering these apps offer quality marketing services as well as delivery for the restaurants on these services, there will likely be fewer resources available there as well. If you don’t have the capital to brand a Grubhub or Uber Eats, how can you expect to draw in customers?

Overall, a sweeping restriction on commission rates would degrade the quality and quantity of the delivery services, and end up hurting more people than it purports to help. That would be both anti-consumer and anti-innovation in the same fell swoop.

ANTITRUST

Much like the Congressional hearings against Apple, Amazon, Facebook, and Google some weeks ago, this coalition wants to use the weapons of the federal government through the Federal Trade Commission to break up the “monopoly power” of delivery services, mainly Grubhub, Uber Eats, Postmates, and Doordash.

With the exception of Grubhub, each of these companies (or subsidiaries in the case of Uber) has existed for less than 10 years. They’ve pivoted multiple times, expanded their services, and finally found a good niche empowering restaurants to quickly and reliably get their food to delivery customers.

At the same time, thousands of delivery workers have been able to get quick and easy work through the apps, giving needed income to students, those between jobs, and people who want extra income. These couriers often contract with multiple services, depending on whichever company offers the highest commission per delivery, similar to rideshare drivers.

Because every restaurant is free to contract its own delivery service or operate their own as was the case for many years, it’s hard to argue that a monopoly exists –– especially if there are more than four dominant players who provide delivery. That’s far from requiring antitrust intervention.

The benefits to restaurants seem clear: less money is spent on hiring a dedicated delivery driver or vehicle, commissions charged are consistent and transparent (whatever their amount), and partnering with a well-known app helps attracts more users who otherwise would never order from that specific restaurant.

Add to that, most of these restaurants likely never had delivery before they signed up for these apps, meaning they went from $0 profit to much more in just a few clicks.

If those costs weren’t worth it to restaurants, they’d start their own delivery services independent of these companies. That was the status quo before any of these companies arrived on the scene, we should remember.

Beyond that, if any of these companies have engaged in any illegal activity, such as promoting fraudulent websites or phone numbers, as the coalition alleges, then this should, of course, be investigated. But that falls outside of the domain of using antitrust laws to break up delivery companies that are providing valuable services to both consumers and restaurants.

If parties are aiming to regulate food delivery companies and are successful in doing so, they’ll set up a paradox of their own making: the only companies that will be able to comply with the regulations and caps will be the delivery firms with the most capital and resources. This would lock out any potential new competition and do more to restrict consumer choice than enhance it.

The last few months have provided each and every worker and consumer with plenty of uncertainty. Being able to order products right to our door, though, has been a blessing. Intervening in the market to undermine the choice of consumers and business contracts with restaurants would make that process arguably worse, and not better.


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org

South Africa’s Prohibition Was A Failure. It Shouldn’t Be Repeated

CONTACT:

David Clement

Consumer Choice Center

South Africa’s Prohibition Was A Failure. It Shouldn’t Be Repeated

Cape Town, SA – Today, South Africa officially lifted its pandemic-era prohibition on the sale of alcohol and tobacco products. 

David Clement, North American Affairs Manager with the Consumer Choice Center responded: “While it is good news that South Africa is ending the ban, it needs to be restated how much of an utter failure the ban was over the past few months,” said Clement

“In banning otherwise legal products throughout the pandemic, the South African government criminalized peaceful adults, and drove consumers to illegal markets often selling dangerous and unregulated products.

“While South Africa’s failed prohibition experiment is over, it is important for South African consumers to urge the government to refrain from implementing another ban if a second Covid-19 wave comes to pass. The pandemic has been awful for millions of South Africans and the South African economy as a whole. Recreating prohibition in the process just made the situation worse,” said Clement

***CCC North American Affairs Manager David Clement is available to speak with accredited media on consumer regulations and consumer choice issues. Please send media inquiries HERE.***

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org.

L’Inps ha (di nuovo) violato la privacy di milioni di italiani

In queste ore si chiedono a gran voce nomi e dimissioni di tutti e cinque parlamentari che hanno chiesto il bonus Inps da 600 euro. Nonostante questa scelta possa essere considerata inopportuna: “L’Inps e il suo presidente questa volta hanno superato ogni limite della legalità, violando la privacy di milioni di italiani”. Questa è l’opinione di Luca Bertoletti, responsabile Europeo del Consumer Choice Center.

Inps e privacy. Stavolta qualcosa proprio non va. In queste ore si chiedono a gran voce nomi e dimissioni di tutti e cinque parlamentari che hanno chiesto il bonus Inps da 600 euro. Nonostante questa scelta possa essere considerata inopportuna, e sicuramente è l’ennesima prova di una classe politica inadeguata:

l’Inps e il suo presidente Pasquale Tridico questa volta hanno superato ogni limite della legalità, violando la privacy di milioni di italiani“.

Questa è l’opinione di Luca Bertoletti, responsabile europeo del Consumer Choice Center, associazione internazionale di consumatori attiva soprattutto tra Stati Uniti e Canada, ma anche nell’America Latina e in Europa.

Trovando i nomi dei 5 politici, l’Inps ha violato anche la nostra privacy 

Non c’è stata nessuna violazione della legge e, seppur in modo quantomeno inopportuno, i tre parlamentari hanno ottenuto i soldi superando regolarmente tutti i controlli dell’Inps.

“Ma quindi -continua Bertoletti- adesso la domanda è: come mai l’Inps li ha segnalati? E soprattutto con quale potere l’Inps ha controllato il lavoro che questi individui fanno, violandone così la privacy?”.

“Dimissioni del presidente dell’Inps e indagine interna su come e chi ha violato la privacy dei cittadini”

Secondo il Consumer Choice Center, attivo anche sull’Asia e che si occupa prevalentemente di privacy, ma anche di nuove tecnologie (in particolare dello sviluppo sul 5G), per come stanno le cose diventa necessaria non solo un’indagine interna all’Inps, su come e chi ha controllato la vita privata di cittadini, scoprendo il lavoro che fanno, e facendolo trapelare ai media, ma anche le dimissioni immediate del Presidente dell’Inps Pasquale Tridico:

Tutela della privacy, cosa avrebbe dovuto fare l’Inps

“Da legge governativa l’Inps avrebbe dovuto semplicemente verificare i codici Ateco per ciascuna partita Iva. E basta”. E invece… “Per carità, in realtà l’Inps è stato bravissimo a recuperare l’identità dei parlamentari. Ma la legge non prevedeva in alcun modo di risalire a nomi e cognomi di ciascun codice Ateco”.

E allora la domanda è: con quali mezzi è riuscita a scoprire l’identità dei titolari della partita Iva, con buona pace della privacy, attraverso l’incrocio dei dati delle occupazioni vere dei titolari?

“Per farlo è evidente che è stato fatto un check a tappeto esteso su tutti i codici Ateco. Non essendoci tetti o paletti nella richiesta del bonus –poteva chiederlo chiunque avesse una partita iva attiva NdR– questi controlli non erano necessari”. 

Inps, che velocità nel risalire ai nomi e a consegnarli alla stampa!

L’altro aspetto della vicenda riguarda la velocità con cui i nomi sono stati consegnati alla stampa: “Con veline tipiche della prima repubblica, come se fosse stata una conferenza stampa -continua Bertoletti di Consumer Choice Center-. Se si considera il fatto che per ricevere la cassa integrazione e gli stessi bonus molti italiani, in questo caso gente che di soldi ne aveva bisogno per davvero, ha douto fare una trafila infinita e addirittura c’è chi ancora non ha ricevuto niente, altre che si sono ritrovati cognomi diversi o dati che appartenevano ad altre persone”.

Insomma, un organo come l’Inps, è così che la pensa Bertoletti, avrebbe dovuto fare una cosa sola. Abbinare il bonus al codice Ateco. E invece ha indagato nella privacy di ciascun codice e ciascuna partita Iva. Risalendo all’identità di ciascun codice e risalendo al titolare di ciascuna partita Iva, arrivando a scoprire i nomi dei parlamentari e dei politici, necessariamente andando ad abbinare un nome, un cognome e un volto di tutti i professionisti autonomi che avevano fatto richiesta. Un gran lavoro. Ma che la legge non prevedeva. Un lavoro inopportuno. 

Tra un mese il referendum: sarà un caso?

Il presidente dell’Inps Pasquale Tridico lo ha già detto e ribadito più volte in questi giorni: “Nessun collegamento tra il referendum di settembre e la comunicazione dei 5 parlamentari che hanno chiesto il bonus. Non è un caso montato. Chi proverà ad accusarci ancora sarà querelato“.

Luca Bertoletti di Consumer Choice Center risponde così:

“Beh, allora sicuramente è una coincidenza così evitiamo di essere querelati. Ma è una coincidenza che avviene il giorno dopo che la consulta ha detto sì all’Election Day, accorpando Elezioni Regionali e Referendum. E il giorno stesso in cui alcuni sondaggi davano in vantaggio il No dei cittadini al taglio dei parlamentari. Ma sicuramente è una coincidenza”.

Il ruolo dell’organo Inps sull’antifrode, anticorruzione e trasparenza

Altro paradosso: a scoprire i nomi dei parlamentari è stato l’organo dell’Inps sull’antifrode, anticorruzione e che tutela la trasparenza. Ma in questo caso non c’è frode né corruzione. I politici avevano tutto il diritto di chiedere il bonus. E neanche di mancanza di trasparenza si può parlare perché la trasparenza non era necessaria. Bastava il codice. E la partita iva aperta:

Aggiunge Bertoletti: “La narrativa mainstream è totalmente contro i cinque deputati e i vari migliaia di politici locali e regionali che piano piano si stanno autodenunciando. Ora, abbiamo scoperto che l’ufficio antifrode che controlla dati sensibili li ha rilasciati al pubblico. Ma la domanda è: non avrebbe dovuto invece semplicemente controllare che le partite iva fossero attive? E’ quei che sta una basilare violazione della privacy dei cittadini. Inps può fare tutti i controlli che vuole ma non è che se le mie idee sono contrarie a un comportamento considerato etico dalla maggior parte delle persone allora è autorizzata a dare il mio nome in pasto alla stampa”. 

La questione della privacy: così il Garante ha sbugiardato l’Inps

Il passaggio successivo allo scoperchiamento del vaso di pandora, e cioè la notizia della richiesta del bonus da parte di parlamentari e governatori regionali, con l’Inps che si è difesa dicendo: “Non diamo i nomi perché dobbiamo tutelare la privacy” è quello relativo al Garante. Che di fatto ha smentito categoricamente l’Inps.

Essendo personaggi pubblici, e siccome si parla di soldi pubblici, la loro identità, per come si sono messe le cose, si possono e si devono rivelare. Intanto però ha anche aperto un’istruttoria per capire con quali metodi si è risaliti alla scoperta dell’esistenza di una “classe” politica così ampia che ha fatto richiesta del bonus: “Un altro, l’ennesimo paradosso di questa storia: da una parte il Garante ha le mani legate. Perché in questo caso la privacy non vale più. Il problema sta alla radice, con la domanda da cui abbiamo iniziato la nostra riflessione, e cioe: come ha fatto l’Inps ha scoprire la loro identità?”.

Privacy violata: una delle pagine più tristi dell’Inps

Per Consumer Choice Center, si tratta di una delle pagine più tristi dell’Inps e che funge da perfetta fotografia di una macchina statale talmente contorta su se stessa che non è più neanche in grado di capire se quello che fa è lecito oppure no.

“Si parlava di organo che tutela e garantisce la trasparenza. Ma in questo caso chi si è macchiato di mancanza di trasparenza è proprio l’Inps, non i politici”.

Politici che, questa è la sensazione, riusciranno a farla franca anche questa volta. Probabilmente saranno cacciati dai loro partiti, questa è una delle minacce del leader della Lega Matteo Salvini. Ma in qualche modo riusciranno a mantenere il loro posto in Parlamento. “Non dimentichiamoci che questo caos sarebbe venuto ugualmente fuori a dicembre -conclude Bertoletti- quando i deputati sono obbligati a pubblicare i loro guadagni e il loro 730, dove ovviamente i 600 euro dell’Inps sarebbero stati necessariamente segnalati. 

Originally published here.


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org

In Kamala Harris, do consumers have an ally or a foe?

This week, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden revealed Sen. Kamala Harris of California as his running mate for the November general election against President Donald Trump.

Because Harris’ influence on the Biden campaign will loom large, and be important to whomever American voters choose in the fall, it’s worth looking at some of her ideas and policies and how they would have an impact on consumers.

Let’s take a dip, shall we?

HEALTHCARE

On her original presidential campaign website and throughout the Democratic primary debates, Harris was adamant about banning private healthcare insurance in favor of a Medicare For All plan. She later backed out once she was questioned by party activists.

With that in mind, considering Biden was nominated to be his party’s candidate on a platform of not seeking Medicare For All, a plan to expand the government health insurance program to seniors to the entire population, it seems there may be healthy disagreement on this point.

As I’ve written in a few outlets, the idea of a Medicare For All health insurance system would rob consumers of competition and choice, and likely lead to less quality of healthcare than we actually receive. It would mean that healthcare decisions would be placed in a complex hierarchy of bureaucratic agencies immune from market forces. That would inevitably lead to higher costs overall – no matter who foots the bill.

Harris being on the ticket doesn’t mean M4All is now on the docket for the Democratic Party, but it does mean that ideas about the government reorganizing health insurance will certainly be a part of a potential Biden Administration in the future. That’ll be something to keep an eye on.

TECH

As we covered during the debates in 2019, Sen. Harris petitioned Twitter to remove President Donald Trump from its service. Those calls weren’t central to her rhetoric on tech regulations, but they at least revealed her mindset regarding content on social media platforms, and who should be allowed to have an account. In some speeches, she’s come out as more hawkish on online censorship, which should good everyone worry.

Unlike some of her past primary opponents, she was rather soft on the question of antitrust and whether the tech giants in Silicon Valley should be broken up, which is a relief for consumers.

Most of the animus against tech companies has very little to do with concern for consumers, and much more to do with the new generation of gatekeepers using technology and innovation to provide better services. Most consumers prefer these new innovations and want them to thrive, not be broken up.

For some observers, her political career in California and proximity to tech firms mean she’ll be an asset rather than a liability on future tech regulation. The outlet Marketwatch dubbed her a “friend, not a foe, of Big Tech” and the Wall Street Journal similarly gave her praise, though with some caution.

VAPING

What isn’t a surprise to listeners of Consumer Choice Radio is that Sen. Harris is no friend of vaping and harm-reducing innovations.

She penned a letter last year accusing the FDA of being soft on vaping and for not banning all vaping products outright. That would have been disastrous for the former smokers who rely on these products.

She took it a step further by linking legal nicotine vaping products to the bootleg THC vaping devices that caused lung injuries throughout 2019, which we’ve debunked in our own work at the Consumer Choice Center.

If Harris’ worldview remains the same, vapers won’t have a friend in the potential future VP.

CANNABIS

And lastly, we come to cannabis, a favorite topic of those who dub Harris “The Cop Who Wants to be (Vice) President,” like Elizabeth Nolan Brown of Reason.

During Harris’ time as a prosecutor in California, her reputation as an anti-cannabis voice was well-known.

But as our friends at Marijuana Moment mention, she’s changed her mind over the years, from being a staunch opponent to advocate:

Though she coauthored an official voter guide argument opposing a California cannabis legalization measure as a prosecutor in 2010 and laughed in the face of a reporter who asked her about the issue in 2014, she went on to sponsor legislation to federally deschedule marijuana in 2019.

Where Vice Presidential Candidate Kamala Harris Stands On Marijuana

Since dropping her campaign to be president, she’s become more vocal, making the argument for legalizing cannabis at the federal level, though she’s

Overall, there’s a lot to digest on a potential Kamala Harris Vice Presidency. On behalf of consumers, let’s hope there’s more good than bad.

Lyft and Uber threaten to stop operating in CA if forced to make drivers employees

Drivers would get screwed if Lyft and Uber shut down in California.

Lyft’s “good guy” image keeps slipping. 

The ride-hailing app joined its rival Uber in an employee classification fight in California Wednesday. 

During Lyft’s second quarter earnings call, co-founder John Zimmer responded to a California judge’s ruling that orders the two companies to classify drivers as full-time employees. “It will force us to suspend operations in California,” Zimmer threatened, opening up the possibility that all Lyft cars could be taken off the streets as early as next week.

His comments echoed those of Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, who told MSNBC earlier Wednesday that Uber would shut down in California until November if its independent drivers had to be treated as employees with full benefits.

The preliminary injunction to comply with California’s new AB 5 employee classification law goes into effect Aug. 20, but both companies can appeal the California Superior Court decision. Both have already indicated they will do so. 

But in the unlikely event that the companies have to switch to an employee model, are Lyft and Uber’s threats to bail just scare tactics? A strategy to bend drivers and users to their desired outcome? 

Both companies, along with other apps like DoorDash and Instacart, have backed state Proposition 22 on the November ballot. That measure would exempt gig-based apps from AB 5’s employee requirements and keep workers as independent contractors. Uber’s Khosrowshahi wrote an op-ed in the New York Times this week about a “third way” to hire gig workers with some benefits and keep their flexible schedules.

The driver group Gig Workers Rising called the potential California app suspensions “vile corporate tactics.”

The idea that Uber and Lyft would shut down their apps in such lucrative markets “is ridiculous, and just another empty threat in their attempt to avoid accountability,” a statement from the group representing gig workers and drivers noted.

The group is heading a campaign to block Prop. 22 in the fall.

It appears Uber and Lyft want to offer a drastic preview of what the pro-Prop. 22 consumer advocacy group Consumer Choice Center called “serious repercussions” if AB 5 is forced onto Uber and Lyft.

“Changing employment law to make certain business relationships illegal deprives millions of people of the opportunity of using these services, and has serious repercussions for those who rely on these services both as customers and as workers,” the Consumer Choice Center had said in a statement after Monday’s ruling. 

The group’s deputy director, Yaël Ossowski, responded to Wednesday’s threats to shut down the apps in an email after the Lyft call. “It’s unfortunate that millions of Californians will be deprived of more choice if that happens,” he wrote.

Until Californians vote on Prop. 22, Uber and Lyft are standing united to do whatever it takes to keep drivers classified as independent. 

Originally published here.


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org

California’s political leaders are pushing rideshare companies and consumers will suffer

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San Francisco, CA – On Wednesday, the CEO of Uber said that if California’s AB5 law is carried out against rideshare firms, the company will consider pulling all of its services from the state.

Yaël Ossowski, deputy director of the Consumer Choice Center, a consumer advocacy group, calls it a “sad day” for California rideshare consumers drivers.

“Through AB5 and similar legislation, California’s politicians have been sending the signal that rideshare companies are not welcome in the Golden State. But that’s not what consumers want,” said Ossowski. “The flexible model that has so far propelled the growth of companies like Uber, Lyft, and others has been beneficial for both drivers who want independence and consumers who want convenience and competitive prices.

“If Uber and other companies shut down in California, it will prove that the state is no longer a hotbed of innovation, but rather the place where innovation goes to die. It’s unfortunate that millions of Californians will be deprived of more choice if that happens. The same has also proven true for the thousands of freelancers who now find themselves out of work.

“California politicians may have the noblest of intentions, but forcing rideshare companies to become taxi companies does nothing but help the taxi cartel maintain its monopoly and deprive people of earning a living on their own terms.

“Hopefully, voters will choose to support Prop 22 in the fall to reverse course and restore the ability of drivers and other freelancers to earn a living how they want,” said Ossowski.

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The Consumer Choice Center represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva, and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org.

CONTACT:

Yaël Ossowski

Deputy Director

Consumer Choice Center

yael@consumerchoicecenter.org

Think of the children! How to find cures for rare and children diseases.

The European Commission just published a working document assessing the EU’s orphan and pediatric drug strategies. Read here why incentives for research are key to extending patients’ lives:

A rare disease is a medical condition that meets the criteria defined in Article 3 of Regulation (EC) No 141/2000; a life-threatening or chronically debilitating condition affecting no more than 5 in 10,000 persons in the EU. Although so-called rare diseases affect a limited number of people per disease, collectively they affect one person in every 17 people within Europe. There are over 7,000 different rare diseases patients suffer from.

Regulators see an ‘imbalance of risk and reward’ for the industry to find cures and treatments for those diseases. Hence US, Japanese and EU regulators increased options for longer market exclusivity for drugs tackling diseases in children and rare diseases. In 2000, Regulation (EC) No 141/2000 and  2006 Regulation (EC) No 1901/2006 were adopted by the European Commission. The ‘standard’ incentives provided by the general legislative framework for pharmaceuticals in the EU are 10 years of market protection and 20 years of patent protection. For pediatric and orphan drugs manufacturers can apply for extended market exclusivity.

The purpose of this strategy is to improve and expedite patients’ access to safe and affordable medicines and to support innovation in the EU pharmaceutical industry. Adding prolonged exclusivity worked: A massive increase in orphan drugs could be seen in the last 20 years! Between 2012 and 2017 over three times as many orphan drugs entered the EU compared to 2000-2005. The EU Commission estimated that between 200,000 and 440,000 additional quality-adjusted life years were gained thanks to more incentives for these drugs.

Added IP Protection for Orphan Drugs correlates with more drugs entering the market

Voices who call now for less protection of orphan and pediatric drugs want to undo the successes of the last two decades. The 142 orphan medicines authorized between 2000 and 2017 have helped up to 6.3 million patients in the EU to either cure or cope with their health conditions.

But there are still millions of patients waiting for a breakthrough that can help to treat their rare or pediatric disease – For this, we need to have incentives and not populism. Intellectual property is key in allowing the inventor and her investors to reward them for their massive risk they undertook in trying to find a cure or treatment for a rare disease. The EU’s approach to orphan and pediatric drugs by increasing incentives for inventors and manufacturers has worked. The successes of the past 20 years should not be undermined by populist calls to nationalize research and IP. If we care about patients with rare diseases, we should not question the importance of protecting intellectual property but see it as a precondition for future innovations.

To sum it up: Think of the children and allow medical innovation to take place!

Consumer Choice Center Joins Coalition Opposed To Most Favored Nation Drug Pricing Proposal

Dear President Trump:

On behalf of the undersigned federal and state-based organizations, we write to express our grave concerns with the “most favored nation” (MFN) executive order to impose foreign price controls on American medicines.

This proposal will impose an “International Pricing Index” on drugs in Medicare Part B, tying the U.S. prices for these medicines to the prices in foreign countries, most of which have government-set prices established in socialized medicine systems.

Adopting these price controls will slow medical innovation, threaten American jobs, and undermine criticism of single-payer systems. In addition, a United States embrace of price controls will make it immeasurably more difficult to get foreign countries to pay their own way in the development of new medicines.

Your administration has repeatedly stood strong against a government-takeover of healthcare. In fact, in your 2020 State of the Union Address, you promised that “we will never let socialism destroy American health care.”

We applaud your strong stance – socialized healthcare policies proposed by some leading presidential candidates would require trillions of dollars in tax increases, would destroy medical progress, and would end healthcare plans used by 180 million Americans.

Unfortunately, an MFN policy would adopt the same socialist healthcare policies that you have promised to fight against.

Not only does this undermine the broader effort to fight against the government takeover of health care, it will also have disastrous consequences to the economy and healthcare system.

The U.S. is the best in the world when it comes to developing innovative, lifesaving and life preserving medicines. Because of this, the U.S. is leading the way when it comes to developing COVID-19 vaccines, with several promising candidates entering the final stages of testing and clinical trials.

In contrast, foreign countries have been free riding off this American medical innovation for decades through crushing price controls and other market-distorting government rules and regulations.

Adopting foreign price controls will result in the same negative outcomes to our healthcare system as those overseas—less medical innovation leading to fewer cures and healthcare shortages for American patients.

Adopting price controls through an MFN will also harm the U.S. economy because of a decline in American research and development. Medical innovation directly or indirectly supports 4 million jobs and $1.1 trillion in total economic impact, which will be threatened by importing price controls.

An MFN does nothing to fight foreign free riding of American innovation. Although supporters of MFN have claimed the concept will incentivize manufacturers to negotiate better deals, this theory is based on the flawed assumption that American manufacturers were not fighting as hard as they could against foreign price controls in past years. In addition, an American adoption of these same policies renders any future criticism of them incredibly challenging.

Moving forward, we need policies that further encourage American innovation through tax and trade policies, such as renegotiated trade deals, a competitive business tax system and a more competitive environment.

As President, you have championed vital changes in tax and regulatory policies that have allowed free market innovation to flourish. We believe a market-based approach like those that your administration has consistently supported in other policy areas will lead to economic growth and promising new treatments but adopting price controls through the MFN plan would undermine rather than build on those successes. In short, if the MFN executive order is implemented it will have disastrous consequences for both American healthcare and the American economy.

Sincerely,

Grover Norquist
President, Americans for Tax Reform

Saulius “Saul” Anuzis
President, 60 Plus Association

Jim Martin
Founder/Chairman, 60 Plus
Association

Marty Connors
Leader, Alabama Center-Right
Coalition

Bethany Marcum
Executive Director, Alaska Policy
Forum

Phil Kerpen
President, American Commitment

Daniel Schneider
Executive Director, American
Conservative Union

Dee Stewart
President, Americans for a
Balanced Budget

Richard Manning
President, Americans for Limited
Government

Brent Wm. Gardner
Chief Government Affairs Officer,
Americans for Prosperity

Lisa B. Nelson
CEO, ALEC

Michael Bowman
President, ALEC Action

Kevin Waterman
Chair, Annapolis Center-Right
Coalition Meeting (Maryland)

Robert Alt
President and CEO, The Buckeye Institute

Rabbi Aryeh Spero
President, Caucus for America

Ryan Ellis
President, Center for a Free Economy

Andrew F. Quinlan
President, Center for Freedom and Prosperity

Jeffrey Mazzella
President, Center for Individual Freedom

Ginevra Joyce-Myers
Executive Director, Center for Innovation and Free Enterprise

Peter Pitts
President, Center for Medicine in the Public Interest

John Hinderaker
President, Center of the American Experiment

Thomas Schatz
President, Citizens Against Government Waste

Leo Knepper
CEO, Citizens Alliance of Pennsylvania

Donald Bryson
President & CEO, Civitas Institute

Regina Thomson
President, Colorado Issues Coalition

Gregory Conko
Senior Fellow, Competitive Enterprise Institute

James Edwards
Executive Director, Conservatives for Property Rights

Matthew Kandrach
President, Consumer Action for a Strong Economy

Fred Roeder
Health Economist/Managing Director, Consumer Choice Center

Yaël Ossowski
Deputy Director, Consumer Choice Center

Joel White
President, Council for Affordable Health Coverage

Katie McAuliffe
Executive Director, Digital Liberty

Robert Roper
President, Ethan Allen Institute

Adam Brandon
President, FreedomWorks

Annette Meeks
CEO, Freedom Foundation of Minnesota

George Landrith
President, Frontiers of Freedom

Grace Marie-Turner
President, Galen Institute
(organization listed for affiliation purposes only)

Ray Chadwick,
Chairman, Granite State Taxpayers

Naomi Lopez
Director of Healthcare Policy, Goldwater Institute

Mario H. Lopez
President, Hispanic Leadership Fund

Carrie Lukas
President, Independent Women’s Forum

Heather R. Higgins
CEO, Independent Women’s Voice

Andrew Langer
President, Institute for Liberty

Tom Giovanetti
President, Institute for Policy Innovation

Sal Nuzzo
Vice President of Policy, James Madison Institute

Amy Oliver Cooke
CEO, John Locke Foundation

Drew Cline
President, Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy

Seton Motley
President, Less Government

Jay Fisher
Immediate Past Chairman, Lisle Township Republican Organization

Doug McCullough
Director, Lone Star Policy Institute

Lindsay Killen
Vice President for Strategic Outreach, Mackinac Center for Public Policy

Brett Healy
President, The John K. MacIver Institute for Public Policy

Matt Gagnon
President, Maine Policy Institute

Charles Sauer
President, Market Institute

Dee Hodges
President, Maryland Taxpayers Association, Inc

Gene Clem
Spokesman, Michigan Tea Party Alliance

Jameson Taylor, Ph.D.
Vice President for Policy, Mississippi Center for Public Policy

Tim Jones
Chair, Missouri Center-Right Coalition
Fmr. Speaker, Missouri House

David A. Ridenour
President, National Center for Public Policy Research

Everett Wilkinson
Chairman, National Liberty Federation

Pete Sepp
President, National Taxpayers Union

John Tsarpalas
President, Nevada Policy Research Institute

Scott Pullins
Founder, Ohio Taxpayers Association

Doug Kellogg
Executive Director, Ohioans for Tax Reform

Sally Pipes
President and CEO, Pacific Research Institute

Ellen Weaver
President & CEO, Palmetto Promise Institute

Daniel Erspamer
Chief Executive Officer, Pelican Institute for Public Policy

Ed Martin
President, Phyllis Schlafly Eagles

Lorenzo Montanari
Executive Director, Property Rights Alliance

Stone Washington
Member, Project 21

Paul J. Gessing
President, Rio Grande Foundation

Bette Grande
President & CEO, Roughrider Policy Center

James L. Setterlund
Executive Director, Shareholder Advocacy Forum

Karen Kerrigan
President & CEO, Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council

Paul E. Vallely, Major General, US Army (ret)
Chairman, Stand Up America US Foundation

Richard Watson
Chair, Tallahassee Center-Right Coalition

David Williams
President, Taxpayers Protection Alliance

Sara Croom
Executive Director, Trade Alliance to Promote Prosperity

C. Preston Noell III
President, Tradition, Family, Property, Inc.

Lynn Taylor
President, Virginia Institute for Public Policy

Newsletter August 2020

August is here and while our social and travel patterns are still very limited due to the ongoing pandemic, we were able to have one of our most productive months ever at the CCC! 

In Latin America, Julio Clavijo and Fabio Fernandes launched the First Annual Edition of the Latin American Consumer Airport Index, seeking to rank the continent’s most passenger-friendly airports. We had important local media hits, such as Valor Econômico, Diário do Grande ABC, Monitor Mercantil, InfoTur Dominicano and Revista Dia-a-Dia. The Index is available here.


On July 14th, the Consumer Choice Center branch in Brazil (CESCO) held its first live stream on the topic of medical cannabis. Our Media Associate Fabio interviewed the first and only organization in Brazil authorized to grow marijuana and produce CBD/THC oil for medical purposes. We had over 75 people watching live and asking questions on this still delicate topic in the country. You can watch the full interview in Portuguese here.


In South Africa our Managing Director Fred Roeder interviewed the shadow minister of Trade and Industry Dean Macphearson on the ongoing prohibition and lockdown measures in the African Horn. The campaign can be found under the hashtag #StopProhibition. 


In North America

Our North American Affairs Manager David Clement was featured on the TV Channel CHCH news in Ontario where he argued in favour of cannabis delivery and online ordering. He was also published in the Financial Post making the case for liberalizing Canada’s airline market and allowing for international competition.

There’s a lot at stake in Washington, D.C. in the next round of negotiations for a pandemic fiscal relief plan. In the Detroit News, Deputy Director Yaël Ossowski makes the case for a liability shield for responsible businesses, organizations, and schools.


CONSUMER CHOICE RADIO

On the airwaves, we had another great set of episodes of Consumer Choice Radio on 106.7FM in Wilmington, N.C. Some of our guests included author Bjorn Lomborg, general surgeon Dr. Jeff Singer, journalist Brad Polumbo, policy analyst Ashley Baker, and private detective Brian O’Shea.

Be sure to subscribe to the podcast version of our radio show, which broadcasts each week at 10:00AM EST!


Meanwhile in Europe

CCC participated in the Fin-Tech action plan consultation of the EU Commission, demanding a real digital and financial single market for consumers. The entire document can be found here:


Agriculture Webinar with Norbert Lins

On July 7, our own Bill Wirtz hosted a webinar on European agriculture with European Parliament Agriculture Committee chairman Norbert Lins, vice-chair Mazaly Aguilar, and plant biotechnologist Marcel Kuntz. The European Union has recently unveiled its “Farm to Fork” strategy, which seeks to overhaul the way food is produced in Europe.


Last, the current situation could lead to a growth of Illicit Trade and the black market, and that’s why myself and Bill have written a policy paper where we suggest how to tackle this problem! 

Even in the middle of a pandemic, parts of our team used a few days in early August to meet up (in a very socially distanced way) and discuss strategies for promoting consumer choice in the second half of this year. One of the highlights was this beautifully designed CCC-cake featuring the four policy areas we represent consumers in.

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