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Month: September 2021

Michael Bloomberg is coming for your vape

Here’s a question: If you knew that millions of dollars were being spent in order to deprive people in developing countries of the same innovative technologies used in developed countries, would you be outraged?

What if those efforts were spearheaded, funded, and shepherded by a billionaire former New York City mayor? Meet Michael Bloomberg, the swashbuckling businessman and politician whose money is making waves around the world…and not always in a good way.

Recently, documents have uncovered how Bloomberg-affiliated charities have been halting life-saving technologies from being legalized and regulated in developing countries like India, the Philippines, China, Brazil, Peru, Uruguay, Uganda, Nigeria, Kenya, and more.

The Bloomberg Brigade have used powerful rhetoric on the need to eliminate smoking as a literal smokescreen for eliminating or severely restricting all non-combustible nicotine alternatives, including vaping devices, heat-not-burn devices, nicotine pouches, and more – alternatives that are known to be much less harmful than smoking.

This is putting millions of lives in jeopardy.

Let’s stand up for harm reduction to save lives and stand against paternalism that is depriving consumers of choice.

Sharing economy in COVID-times – Sharing economy series, part 2

Welcome to the CCC’s sharing economy series. In this series of short blog posts, I elaborate on what the sharing economy is, present the main findings of the Sharing Economy Index, and look at potential future regulations surrounding these services. 

The current pandemic has had a huge impact on the delivery of sharing economy services. As was discussed in the previous blogpost, online platforms have demonstrated exceptional adaptability and have gone above and beyond to make sure consumers continue to see value in using them. 

While some sectors of the sharing economy, like ride-sharing and home-sharing, have suffered immense losses due to strict lockdowns around the world, others have increased their profits and proved to be invaluable. For example, delivery apps became an essential part of our everyday lives. With restaurants being closed, the fear of virus transmission, and difficulty of travelling due to transport restrictions, we found ourselves relying on delivery services. 

To avoid human interaction at the delivery point, Doordash, an online food delivery platform, like many others, introduced a contactless delivery option that can be requested both by the customer and the deliverer. According to Statista, in the second quarter in France, restaurant delivery users increased by 24% compared to pre-pandemic numbers. In the US, delivery companies also reported growth in their revenues. Combined revenues from the four major delivery companies, Uber Eats, Doordash, Postmates, and Grubhub, from April-September 2020 was double the amount during April-September 2019.

Professional car-sharing services experienced a huge drop in demand during lockdowns, but once people started to get back on the move rather than opt for public transportation they placed more trust in car-sharing services as it entails low risks of virus transmission. Share Now increased their hygiene measures, and they have been cleaning and disinfecting their cars four times more than usual. Peer-to-peer car-sharing platforms, like Turo and Getaround, have also bounced back from pandemic-related setbacks. To reassure people into using their services again they eased cancellation policies and introduced additional cleaning measures.

As demand for services dropped drastically, many companies had to cut losses. Uber, for example, had to lay off thousands of employees to reduce operating expenses, most of those employees being customer service agents, and had to close 45 offices globally. Lyft, another ride-sharing company and Uber’s biggest rival, had to let go of 17% of its workforce.

To comply with new covid restrictions introduced by the local governments, Uber and Airbnb changed and adapted their processes. Uber made it obligatory to wear masks while riding, and before ordering a ride, you have to confirm you will be wearing a mask during the ride. Airbnb introduced additional safety measures and made it a requirement for hosts to carry out a 5 step cleaning process between the guest stays. 

Overall, despite the doom and gloom of the pandemic, the sharing economy managed to survive and continue to innovate. These unprecedented times were more challenging for some than for others. While some services, like ride-sharing and home-sharing, had to lay off a significant amount of their workforce, delivery platforms saw record-breaking demand for their services. 

The next blogpost in our series will discuss some of the controversies surrounding sharing economy platforms and how governments are trying to regulate this innovative sector.

The essence of the sharing economy – Sharing economy series, part 1

The current pandemic has taken a toll on most areas of economic activity, including the sharing economy. Cancelled holidays, stay-at-home orders, mobility restrictions due to quarantines, and lockdowns resulted in a sharp drop in demand for sharing economy services.

The Sharing Economy Index 2021, recently published by the Consumer Choice Center, examines the impact said restrictions have had on the sharing economy as well as provides an extensive overview of the availability of ride-sharing, flat sharing, and other types of peer-to-peer exchange. 

In this series of short blog posts, I will elaborate on what the sharing economy is, present the main findings of the Sharing Economy Index, and look at potential future regulations surrounding these services. 

The sharing (collaborative) economy has transformed human interactions around the globe. As a relatively new economic model, the sharing economy is a platform based type of exchange that allows individuals and groups to share their services on a peer-to-peer basis. 

One of the most distinctive features of the sharing economy is that it eliminates the need to own assets and allows people to use various items — cars, e-scooters, gyms — for a short time without buying them. For example, the flat-sharing platform Airbnb that has been around since 2008, allows you to rent a room or a whole place to yourself in exchange for a certain fee. Simple registration on their website or mobile app opens access to thousands of places around the world and is a great alternative to conventional hotels.

Another tech giant and San-Francisco native, Uber, offers services such as ride-hailing, food and package delivery and also requires just a simple registration process. Uber has been known to be a cheaper alternative to traditional taxi services and is currently available in 70 countries.

Technology has been the driving force behind these companies. However, platforms only act as intermediaries and facilitators: they instantly connect the supply with demand. All forms of collaborative consumption require the internet to connect providers with potential customers. Platforms offer a safe and easy-to-use platform to link people in need of certain services, assets to those who can provide them. 

The trust among users is built through the rating systems. Most platforms encourage review exchange to achieve the best user experience and guarantee safety. For example, for Airbnb, some hosts go the extra mile to make sure their guests enjoy their stay by offering free cleaning services or early check-in. Uber recently released Uber Lite to accommodate those people in developing countries who don’t own the latest smartphones and have an unstable internet connection. Mexico is one of those countries. To adjust to the needs of Mexican people even better, Uber also fought hard to enable cash payments in Mexico city, expanding their service to around 10 million people in the metropolitan area. 

Sharing economy provides services that are more affordable and accessible than their traditional counterparts. The main reason for this is the fewer entry barriers. In order to start driving Uber or rent out your flat through Airbnb, you use idle assets already in your possession. In many countries, platform businesses face fewer market entry barriers compared to traditional businesses, too. Often, it only takes a quick sign-up to join a sharing economy platform. 

A variety of services — from home-sharing to co-working spaces — has made our lives much easier. Even though the recent pandemic has been quite challenging, we’re optimistic that the sharing economy will continue to expand and provide even bigger benefits for people around the world. In the next blog post, we’ll go into details on what effects COVID-19 has had on the sharing economy platforms and how they responded.

New Smoking Pandemic Lurking As FDA Prepares Its Decision On E-Cigarettes

Today, the Food and Drug Administration is expected to announce its historical decision on the fate of e-cigarettes in the United States. As a result of a review of millions of applications made by big and small e-cigarettes makers around the country, the agency will either recognize vaping products as “appropriate for the protection of public health”, or ban them from the market. Despite unequivocal evidence proving the safety of e-cigarettes, the odds are not in favor of e-cigarettes, especially when it comes to smaller companies.

E-cigarettes were actually invented to help smokers quit, and have been enormously successful in doing so. Since 2013, when vaping became popular in the United Kingdom, the adult smoking rate there has plummeted. In fact, in the UK, the smoking rate is at itslowest since 1974. The popularity of vape flavors among adults is one of the reasons smokers have switched to vaping. Vapers that use flavors are 2.3 times more likely to quit than those who use tobacco-flavored e-cigarettes.

Although not complete, the FDA market authorization review process has shown bias against flavored e-cigarettes. On August 26, the FDA denied 55,000 flavored e-cigarette products market access for failing to “provide evidence that they appropriately protect public health” despite the clear body of evidence that e-cigarettes do improve the health of smokers who switch to e-cigarettes. Instead of acknowledging this evidence, the FDA pivoted instead to the illegal use of e-cigarettes by those under 21 years old, saying “flavored tobacco products are very appealing to young people” and hence require close examination. Such reasoning doesn’t stand up to scrutiny and only hurts adult consumers who seek to switch.

A recent study by the Consumer Choice Center and World Vapers’ Alliance found that if the US was to put in place vape flavor bans, over 7.7 million vapers would go back to smoking. If the main goal behind the market authorization review process is to protect public health and prevent smoking-induced diseases, then e-cigarette flavor bans—which are popular with smokers seeking harm-reducing alternatives—are the wrong way forward. 

Second, the application process has been unnecessarily bureaucratic and costly. The FDA itself estimated that building and submitting a market authorization application will take an average of 1,713 hours to compile and could cost several million dollars per product. For smaller vape companies, that is a heavyweight to bear. 

Speaking to POLITICO, Dave Morris, the owner of Phoenix, Arizona-based Vape Gravy Brands, said that his company has spent nearly every penny to apply for market approval of his products. Many of the applications that have been submitted to the FDA have been issued “refuse to accept” or“refuse to file” notices as their applications were deemed incomplete, or as failing to meet technical requirements.

Small vape shops are essential to driving down smoking rates. A study published by BMC Health found that “vape shop staff play a central role in providing customers with product information, and many provide smoking cessation advice.” Therefore, preserving small vape shops is critical to reduce smoking.

Due to a high volume of applications, it seems likely that the FDA will postpone its decision further. However, the predictions are far from optimistic. The United States, a land of innovation and entrepreneurship, is set to crush a technology that—unlike taxes and various other tobacco restrictions—has helped millions of smokers quit. Many developing countries will follow America’s lead, so the fate of vaping globally is at stake. In the end, in pursuit of public health protection, the FDA will bring about a new smoking pandemic. Haven’t we had enough of pandemics?

Originally published here

What makes the UAE the region’s fastest-growing investment destination?

From its strategic location at global crossroads and strong financial reserves and sovereign wealth funds to investment in major development and infrastructure projects, the UAE has been able to create a modern, dynamic and diverse economy in only 50 years.

It is, though, the desire to keep pushing forward and to keep extending the nation’s horizons that has ensured the UAE remains a global beacon for talent, innovation and endeavour, and a model environment for investment and entrepreneurship.

Read the full article here

Parliament decides on F2F this month, here is what it should know

Parliament should raise serious questions about the plans.

This month the European Parliament is set to discuss the Farm to Fork strategy of the European Commission. The plans set out significant changes to the farming system, mandating a 50% reduction of pesticides by 2030, and an increase to 25% of the share of organic in all EU food production in 2030. Adding to that, the strategy wants to set out goals for “healthy diets”, combining the goal of reducing meat consumption for both health and environmental purposes.

The essential claim is that processed meat is a danger to public health, as it is associated with an increased risk of cancer. The “associated with” is quite an important keyword here, especially since it is being repeated so often. Everything you consume is essentially carcinogenic, and can therefore be linked to different cancers. The question is how dangerous it is exactly. 

Read the full article here

The Smart Way to Think About Crypto Regulation

Within the usually boring procedure of shepherding another massive infrastructure bill through Congress last month, a fiery debate erupted over the future of cryptocurrencies and digital assets.

The Senate bill contained broad language to ensure tax and regulatory compliance on all cryptocurrency transactions, regardless of origin, as a revenue generator.

However, traditional financial transactions cannot compare to the complex algorithmic crypto world of mining, staking, rewards, and smart contracts. It is easy to see why many digital currency enthusiasts were alarmed.

In a hackneyed manner no one saw coming, the entire future of the crypto industry, including projects such as Bitcoin, Ethereum, Non-Fungible Tokens, and blockchains, was thrown into peril.

Amendments to adapt the language or delete it outright were proposed. But following Senate rules, even a single voice of opposition could kill them. Or, in this case, a desire to spend $50 billion more on defense spending killed them. And that was that.

To be clear, America deserves a fair and substantive debate on the nascent crypto space. If we are to consider regulation, we need testimony from innovators, entrepreneurs, advocates, and skeptics. Instead, we witnessed a collage pasting marathon, with proposals and taxes glued together without even a thought for millions of crypto consumers.

Most shockingly, however, the rules have actually very little to do with the innovative nature of the crypto space and everything to do with how much money legislators thought they could extract from the industry and token holders. This was laid bare in the Biden administration’s fact sheet on the infrastructure bill, which claimed the $1 trillion plan would be funded by “strengthening tax enforcement when it comes to cryptocurrencies.”

Despite the inelegance of these proposals, there are smart and consumer-friendly policies we can adopt on cryptocurrencies and crypto projects.

To begin, federal agencies can concentrate on the causes of fraud and abuse. With every successful crypto token or coin, there are dozens of scam sites or exchanges that defraud users or siphon all digital assets they can before they shut down, known in the industry as a “rug pull.”

By focusing resources on dishonest brokers and projects committing fraud, the government could save millions of consumers from losing their hard-earned money, all the while differentiating between bad actors and good ones. This would help boost confidence in the system overall.

Second, any crypto regulation should make technological neutrality a core tenet, meaning that government should not declare winners or losers. Just like the vinyl record was replaced by the CD-ROM and then the MP3, governments should not choose a preferred technology and instead allow innovation and consumer choice to make that determination.

The less than a decade-old crypto industry hosts an intense competition that rapidly changes each day. Whether through algorithmic mining (Proof of Work) or block validation (Proof of Stake), users and entrepreneurs are testing and adapting best practices. If the government endorses one method or outlaws another, because of environmental or technical concerns, it risks backing the wrong horse and stifling innovation.

Third, regulators must not pigeonhole cryptocurrencies only as investments fit for taxing, but rather as technological tools that empower consumers and foster innovation. A unique crypto asset class, separate from traditional securities, would help users benefit from the decentralization and encryption that these projects offer while ensuring reasonable taxation of gains.

Last, regulators must provide legal certainty to the budding crypto sector or risk pushing all crypto activity to the black market, where no rules or regulations will be followed. The disastrous effects of the Drug War on cannabis users or victims of 1920s Prohibition underscore this point.

Clear guidelines that allow crypto companies to open bank accounts, take out insurance, and compensate workers legally will safeguard innovation, continue to create value for entrepreneurs and consumers, and will allow firms to pay taxes and follow rules. This will be vital.

Legislators should view the crypto industry as a friend rather than a foe. With more opportunities will come more investment, more jobs, and more innovation – and that means we’ll all be better off.

Originally published here

The fan-friendliest stadiums in Europe, revealed

As we get back to normal slowly, football should be an experience.

The Consumer Choice Center released its first Fan-Friendly Stadium Index!

The Fan-Friendly Stadium Index is a European ranking evaluating the biggest football stadiums in Europe by their overall capacity, accessibility, services provided, number of restaurants and stores, and their physical structure. The index evaluates a series of important metrics for football fans around the world.

The COVID pandemic halted all sports events in Europe and around the world. Until recently, many matches and games were behind closed doors – meaning that fans were not allowed to watch them in person. Now, with vaccination rollout at full speed, many countries have decided to remove some of the COVID restrictions on sports events, and football fans could not be more excited about it.

Read the full article here

Київ потрапив у топ-10 столиць за рівнем розвитку шерингової економіки.

Електросамокати, автомобілі, квартири… Київ другий рік поспіль у топ-10 столиць за рівнем розвитку шерингової економіки. Сервісів багато, і вони доступні. Про те, наскільки вигідно користувачу орендувати щось не від офіційної компанії, а через певну платформу чи додаток в іншого користувача, який хоче поділитися тим чи іншим ресурсом, та про перспективи цього бізнесу, йтиметься в програмі «Акцент» на Українському радіо.

POUVOIR D’ACHAT : L’UNION EUROPÉENNE PASSE À L’ATTAQUE

Un nouveau paquet législatif vient définir la mise en place du Green Deal européen. Au menu (bien indigeste) : automobiles, carburant, alimentation… et ce n’est qu’un début. Votre pouvoir d’achat va passer à la casserole…

La Commission européenne a récemment dévoilé son paquet « Fit for 55 », censé définir la manière dont le Green Deal européen sera mis en œuvre. Dans ce paquet, un grand nombre de mesures vont augmenter les coûts imposés aux consommateurs et les priver de leurs choix individuels.

L’une des mesures clés suggérées dans ces nouvelles propositions législatives est la mort des moteurs à combustion interne. D’ici 2035, aucune nouvelle voiture diesel ou à essence ne pourra être vendue, y compris les voitures hybrides.

En substance, cela signifie que les Européens seront limités aux seuls véhicules électriques, les voitures à hydrogène n’étant pas encore arrivées sur le marché en grand nombre.

Read the full article here

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