Author: Consumer Choice Center

Kryptospenden für beide Kriegsparteien

Wer Spenden für ukrainische Organisationen sammelt, kann diese in Kryptowährung umgewandelt und so sehr viel schneller und unkomplizierter als beim klassischen Geldtransfern versenden: In wenigen Minuten sind sie in der Ukraine angekommen. Über ein normales Bankkonto kann eine Überweisung schon mal drei bis zehn Tage dauern. Dazu kommen Transaktionsgebühren und möglicherweise ein schlechter Wechselkurs der Bank.

Spenden für die ukrainische Regierung

Aber nicht nur Nichtregierungsorganisationen nutzen Kryptowährungen für ihre Spenden in die Ukraine, sondern auch die Regierung des Landes selbst. „Wir bekamen Anfragen von unserem Militär, dass sie verschiedene Dinge bräuchten. Die Kosten dafür konnte die ukrainische Nationalbank am zweiten Kriegstag nur in sehr geringem Maße über klassische Geldtransfers zahlen“, so der stellvertretende ukrainische Minister für digitale Transformation im Oktober im Podcast Public Key.

Daher hätten Kryptowährungen in den ersten Kriegstagen sehr dabei geholfen, nötige militärische Ausrüstung zu besorgen. Bisher hat so der ukrainische Staat allein mehr als 60 Millionen Dollar gesammelt. Einen Großteil davon in den ersten Wochen.

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Das sind die zehn besten Bahnhöfe in Europa

Eine Verbraucherschutz-Organisation hat die 50 größten Bahnhöfe in Europa untersucht: Wo lässt es sich gut warten, stimmt die Infrastruktur und gibt es kostenlosen Internetzugang? Gleich fünf deutsche Städte schaffen es unter die ersten zehn Plätze.

Bahnhöfe sind Durchgangsstationen, an denen man nie lange bleiben möchte. Doch oft zwingen einen Verspätungen oder Zugausfälle zu langen Wartezeiten. Dann zeigt sich, wie gut das Umfeld wirklich ist: Gibt es genügend Restaurants, Läden und Lounges?

Die Verbraucherschutz-Organisation Consumer Choice Center mit Sitz in Washington D.C. hat jetzt ihren jährlichen European Railway Station Index für 2022 vorgelegt. Darin werden zum dritten Mal die 51 großen Bahnhöfe Europas mit deren Infrastruktur genauer untersucht.

Für die Bewertung spielen Kriterien wie deren Fahrgastzahlen, die Zahl der nationalen und internationalen Verbindungen, die Ausschilderung und Lounges sowie die Anzahl der Fahrstühle eine Rolle. Auch der barrierefreie Zugang für Rollstuhlfahrer, die Anbindung an den öffentlichen Personennahverkehr, die Zahl der Restaurants, Läden für die Versorgung und Rideshare-Möglichkeiten und Internetzugang werden berücksichtigt und fließen in den Index ein.

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Georgia could generate millions through sports betting

Georgia is one of the largest markets without legalized sports betting, and the state could rival others that have already legalized such wagering.

While the state does not have sports wagering, it does have a lottery. Last week, the Georgia Lottery Corp. reported its most profitable first quarter since its start in 1993.

The analysis found that Georgia, one of 15 states without legalized sports betting, could generate $600 million of revenue annually. The Empire State of the South could rival states like Michigan or Virginia if it legalized sports betting.

The Peach State’s “population rivals Ohio’s, and officials in Georgia have shown some recent interest in legalization, too,” PlayUSA said in a report. “The strength and positioning of the state lottery could complicate the proposed implementation, but we’ll choose to be optimistic for now.”

PlayUSA, a content and resource center for the legal gambling industry that focuses on the United States, predicted that at least two states will legalize sports betting next year. Georgia lawmakers have considered legalizing sports betting and casino gambling in the past.

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Sharing economy: we need to rethink work

The Consumer Choice Center has launched a new and improved version of its Sharing Economy Index, ranking 60 cities around the world by their openness to innovation in the sector.

The index is primarily a guide for consumers, pointing them toward the most (and least) innovation-friendly cities. This way, they can take advantage of the best the sharing economy has to offer.

At the same time, it teaches regulators an important lesson about the sharing economy. The sector is a 21st-century marvel, from the way the company is set up to workers’ personal schedules. By contrast, efforts to impose one-size-fits-all legislation on the industry are stuck in the past and will only leave everyone worse off.

For centuries now, the usual workplace was organized around a clear hierarchy, where some completed a set number of known chores and others watched over them to make sure the job got done.

The traditional factory, with its manual laborers and overseers, fits the same description. As tasks in the economy multiplied and the world became richer, factories often gave way to offices and worker overalls became shirts and ties. The underlying structure of the workplace, nonetheless, remained the same.

The sharing economy blows this old model out of the water. Gone is the hierarchy of the factory assembly line or office arrangement, replaced by a network designed to match independent buyers and sellers in ways that benefit both parties. Companies like Airbnb, Uber, and Fiverr are platforms for private individuals to supply goods or services to those in need, with no controlling manager or bureaucratic system getting in the way of exchanges.

Such decentralization doesn’t stop at the structure that companies take. It extends all the way to the everyday tasks of those working in the gig economy. As noted in the Consumer Choice Center’s report, around 79% of independent laborers in the US and 80% of those in the EU cited the ability to produce their own schedule as the primary reason why they chose the position in the first place.

Thanks to its open-ended nature, the sharing economy is able to bounce back from serious challenges. If one part of the network is disrupted, another can take its place, with the larger web always surviving. For instance, Uber has been able to remain active in Ukraine during the Russian invasion, having to move 60 tons of supplies from Romania into Ukraine.

Regulators do not share the same positive picture of the gig industry. Instead, they want workers to enjoy the legal protection and benefits of being a regular salaried worker in a standard company. The same policymakers believe an employee must be able to demand unionization, healthcare benefits, or compensation for negligence and that platform owners should be forced to comply with these demands.

Were regulators to have their way with the sharing economy, however, decentralization would be no more. Suggested legislation marks the return to the old model of factory and office. The US Protecting the Right to Organize Act and the European Commission’s 2021 platform work proposal relegates gig workers to the status of permanent employees and standard managers based on a number of familiar criteria: work and safety, collective bargaining, and a required number of working hours per week.

The consequences would be awful all around. Far from legal certainty, some gig workers would be left jobless altogether, as they are unable to work on a 9 to 5 schedule. This hits vulnerable groups the hardest since they are most reliant on flexible work environments.

Consumers will suffer too. With more and more regulations, services become costlier and harder to acquire. Once layoffs intensify and companies go bankrupt, the goods and services that customers have grown to rely on may not be available anymore.

It’s advisable for policymakers to look toward the future rather than the past. Recognize and foster the strengths of the sharing economy by getting out of the way and letting workers, consumers, and the firms themselves decide the fate of the sharing economy.

Originally published here

Economía colaborativa y tres ciudades de la región

El Consumer Choice Center ha presentado su tercer índice anual de economía colaborativa, en el que clasifica algunas de las ciudades más dinámicas del mundo en función de su apertura a la economía colaborativa.

Este índice único en el mundo es la herramienta para que los consumidores tomen decisiones informadas sobre su próximo destino urbano.

El índice clasifica 60 ciudades de todo el mundo, 6 de ellas de América Latina. Las dos ciudades con mejor puntuación en el Índice de Economía Colaborativa de América Latina de 2021 (otro índice del Consumer Choice Center) fueron Bogotá y Santiago de Chile. Sin embargo, en la escena internacional, las dos ciudades tienen problemas para competir con destinos mundiales más abiertos (y por tanto más atractivos), por lo que han terminado en la mitad inferior del índice.

Por otra parte, tres ciudades latinoamericanas -São Paulo, Buenos Aires y Ciudad de México- figuran en el TOP 10 mundial de las ciudades más favorables a la economía colaborativa. Estas ciudades demuestran una extraordinaria apertura a todos los servicios de economía colaborativa considerados en el estudio. En particular, todas ellas ofrecen aplicaciones de entrega ultrarrápida, una categoría totalmente nueva añadida al índice de este año.

“Para sacar el máximo partido al índice, puedes utilizarlo como un menú de opciones que te ayude a elegir la ciudad que mejor se adapte a tu estilo de vida. Si te gusta el transporte compacto y respetuoso con el medio ambiente, en nuestro índice puedes ver que los patinetes eléctricos ya no se pueden alquilar en la capital de Colombia, pero que sí puedes disfrutar de ellos en las concurridas calles de Ciudad de México”, señala Anna Arunashvili, Knowledge Management Associate del Consumer Choice Center.

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Orban’s Price Caps on Food and Fuel will lead to shortages

Budapest, HU: This week, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s ruling party announced that the third wave of price caps would be introduced by having a fixed price on potatoes and eggs. Commenting on this move, Consumer Choice Center’s Government Affairs Manager Zoltán Kész:

“Hungarians experienced state-controlled price caps under communism, and we don’t have good memories of that. It leads to shortages that we already see emerging again, the rise of black markets and poverty.”

“In the past year, we have seen petrol stations close down, empty supermarket shelves, and soaring prices of other products. It is very bad for consumers to experience an increase of close to 50% in food prices and to be faced with one of the worst devaluations of the Hungarian currency”, says Kész.

“Fixing the prices of fuel, chicken, or mortgage rates will not help tackle inflation, which is expected to reach 25% by the end of the year. We have the world’s highest VAT with a rate of 27%, but our government still manages to blame everyone else for skyrocketing consumer prices. Before freezing prices at the expense of availability and business closures, we should first bring down our sales taxes by a third. This would massively reduce the burden on consumers”, concludes Kész.

Widespread misinformation about vaping hurts public health

Quitting cigarettes is one of the hardest things to do, as many former and current smokers know from painful personal experience. Public health and politicians must do better to help smokers quit. 700,000 deaths per year in the EU should be enough of an incentive to make us rethink our current approach.

To effectively help smokers quit for good, three conditions must be met:

Firstly, smokers must be able to choose from as many options as possible to find out what smoking cessation method works best for them. People are different, and therefore different ways to give up smoking must be made available and affordable. For very few people (less than 4%), quitting with no help works. For a few, nicotine replacement therapy (such as nicotine gums or patches) works, and it turns out that for many people, new nicotine alternatives help them with quitting smoking once and for all. Those products range from vaping and heat-not-burn products to snus or nicotine pouches. What all these new forms have in common is that they separate nicotine consumption from the combustion of tobacco (which produces the vast majority of the toxicity of smoking), making them far less harmful than smoking cigarettes. Each one is different, each working best for each different person.

62% of smokers in France and 53% in Germany believe anti-smoking policies ignore how difficult it is to stop smoking. Clearly, smokers are not satisfied with traditional cessation methods and therefore look to vaping as a means of quitting

Secondly, we need a modern, open regulatory framework to fit these new alternatives. These new products are not the same as smoking. Hence, they must not be painted with the same regulatory brush. What we need instead is risk-based regulation. Vaping is 95% less harmful than smoking and, therefore, must not be treated the same way. Harm reduction must become a centrepiece of anti-smoking policies, like in the field of pharmaceutical drugs. Harm reduction follows practical strategies and solutions to reduce harmful consequences associated with using certain substances instead of an unrealistic `just quit´ approach. Encouraging smokers who are not able to or don’t want to quit smoking to switch to vaping is a best-case example of harm reduction.

Thirdly, smokers must have accurate information about the potential risks of different products to make decisions. The same applies to medical professionals who are working with those smokers. They need to know the facts to make a lasting difference for smokers.

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9 Recommendations to the Malaysian Government on Consumer Policy

Following the recent dissolution of the Malaysian Parliament, an official administration will be formed following the 15th General Election to be held on 19 November 2022. The Consumer Choice Center argues that any new government elected should focus on pro-consumer policies, especially in allowing choices.  

The Consumer Choice Center lists 9 recommendations to the new government to be researched and implemented according to the best method.

Consumer data protection – Over 25 million sets of personal data have been stolen so far this year alone, 2022. To prevent this from happening again, the Personal Data Protection Department and the commission must be placed under the responsibility of Parliament instead of the Ministry of Communications and Multimedia.

A mechanism needs to be established to manage compensation or damages to all victims of personal data theft crimes. Victims need to be notified that their personal data has been leaked. In addition, we also recommend personal liability of company directors who fail to address data protection risks. 

Make cars more affordable! – Excise duty in Malaysia starts from 60 to 105 percent calculated based on the type of vehicle and engine capacity. Manakala import duty can reach up to 30 percent depending on the country of origin of the vehicle. CCC encourages the lowering of taxes to allow cars to be imported and exported easily – less cost and can be enjoyed by a wider market. This taxation puts consumers at a disadvantage while having to pay more for a better-quality car.

Reduce barriers to research in medical marijuana – More clinical studies on the use of medical cannabis should be done. Until today, there remains a lack of research on its effects for Malaysian patients. Globally, over 40 countries have legalized medical use of cannabis, including Thailand and Sri Lanka. One study in Denmark finds that medical cannabis is frequently used as a substitute for prescription drugs, particularly pain relievers, antidepressants and arthritis medication. 

Recently, local researchers from public universities have failed to study cannabis due to legal restrictions imposed by the government on “civil servants” and not “public officers” by the Dangerous Drugs Act (DDA) 1952. Besides, Malaysia’s Dangerous Drugs Act 1952 only uses the term “cannabis” and does not make the distinction between hemp and marijuana.

Cryptocurrency and innovation – Regulation needs to be developed without stifling innovation, with a careful balance required between weighing the need to protect consumers with the benefits of a new technology with huge long-term potential. Regulation is a vital part of the cryptocurrency ecosystem, as it lifts global and local standards, sets barriers to entry for operators and provides consumer protection. Regulatory standards in a country are critical because it provides consumers with a good indication that they can trust that company with their funds. Overregulation of the industry may also deter innovation.

Adopt harm reduction approach – Adopt the harm reduction method as a concept in reducing the number of smokers. Harm reduction laws must be based on scientific-backed solutions and every consumer has the right to receive accurate information in making a decision for himself. For instance, Public Health England stated that vaping is 95% less harmful than smoking and the government needs to ensure that the information can be reached by the public.

Aviation – Enforce existing consumer protection laws by making it easier to get refunds of canceled flights. In addition, when the plane is canceled, the consumers should have the option of receiving either a cash refund or a travel voucher to rebook a new flight in the future.

Food chain – Empower genetic engineering efforts in Malaysia to diversify food sources, adapt to climate conditions and reduce import dependency. The production of food commodities from within the country is important to ensure sufficient food supply in the country. Incentives for food production projects should continue with tax exemptions for the producing industry. 

Brands matter – Maintain intellectual property protection and brand protection in order to help consumers to distinguish between fake products that might be harmful for them and original products. Esports – Maintain the plan on policy or incentive of income tax exemption on winning prizes they receive in any competition starting in 2023. In addition, any company that in any form of winning while representing the country through official games such as the Commonwealth Games, Asian Games or SEA Games can apply for tax exemption in the country.

The study reveals 62% of smokers in France and 53% in Germany believe anti-smoking policies ignore how difficult it is to stop smoking

The study commissioned by Consumer Choice Center and written in cooperation with the World Vapers’ Alliance reveals several misconceptions about nicotine and harm reduction among healthcare practitioners and consumers.

The survey on Perceptions on Tobacco Harm Reduction and Nicotine in France and Germany was conducted to gain a greater insight into the impact of misperceptions about vaping among general practitioners, smokers, and policymakers, on the future harm reduction policy in Europe. The survey features 30 interviews with general practitioners and a quantitative survey of 862 French and German smokers.

Key findings:

  • Only three out of 15 doctors in Germany say they know the term harm reduction.
  • 33% of smokers in France and 43% in Germany wrongly believe vaping is as harmful or more harmful than cigarettes.
  • 69% of smokers in France and 74% of smokers in Germany wrongly believe nicotine causes cancer.
  • 62% of smokers in France and 53% in Germany believe anti-smoking policies ignore how difficult it is to stop smoking.

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Farsalinos: “La sigaretta elettronica deve entrare in ogni programma di lotta al fumo”

Presentato oggi alla stampa uno studio sulla percezione di sigaretta elettronica e riduzione del danno condotto in Francia e Germania.

l 33% dei fumatori francesi e il 43% di quelli tedeschi crede, sbagliando, che la sigaretta elettronica sia dannosa come quella di tabacco o addirittura di più. Il 69% dei fumatori in Francia e il 74% in Germania ritiene erroneamente che la nicotina causi il cancro. Solo tre medici tedeschi su quindici affermano di conoscere il termine “riduzione del danno” e forse è anche per questo che nei due Paesi la maggioranza dei tabagisti (69% in Francia, 74% in Germania) è convinto che le politiche antifumo non tengano conto di quanto sia difficile smettere di fumare. Sono questi i principali risultati di un’indagine commissionata alla società di ricerca Info Sapiens dal Consumer Choice Center in collaborazione con la rete internazionale di associazioni dei consumatori di e-cigarette World Vapers Alliance (WVA).

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