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Press Release

CCC feels disappointed that Generational Endgame is still being maintained and believes it could put consumers at risk

KUALA LUMPUR, 5th Oct 2023 – The Consumer Choice Center (CCC) is disappointed with the government’s decision to maintain the generational endgame in the Smoking Product Control Bill for Public Health 2023 which will be presented on Tuesday next week for the second reading.

Tarmizi Anuwar is disappointed because there are not many changes that will be made by the government in this bill despite having gone through the evaluation process twice at the special select committee level when maintaining the implementation of the generational endgame. 

He holds the view that the government should take into account the views of various parties in a serious and fair manner when the dealings are held and adopt a policy approach based on evidence. Consumers have given suggestions for improvement, but they are not taken seriously. 

With this implementation, of course, the effort to reduce smokers in Malaysia will be in vain because the implementation of this generational endgame will increase the demand for black market cigarettes in Malaysia. 

Until now, illegal cigarettes in Malaysia remained high at 55.3 percent in May this year, with only a slight decrease from 56.6 percent in 2022. Although it has been many years, there is still no serious and effective strategy to combat contraband cigarettes in the country.

In response to Commonwealth Medical Association President Dr Muruga Raj Rajathurai’s statement that if this bill is not passed then children will be exposed to vaping without restriction, Tarmizi said this is a misleading statement because vaping can be regulated without having to go through the generational endgame. 

We at CCC have long urged the government to immediately regulate vaping in a wise and coherent way. Otherwise, users will only continue to access unregulated products. 

To prevent underage vaping, we propose smart regulations and enforce strict age restrictions on vape devices and liquids at the point of sale and use modern authentication technology for online sales. 

This regulation can be done without the need to go through the generational endgame and has been successfully proven in Sweden. The first smoke-free country has succeeded in reducing the smoking rate from 15 percent to 5.6 percent in 15 years through a strategy of providing alternative products widely and well-informed. 

In addition, according to Tarmizi, the government’s proposal to introduce fines to buyers of either cigarettes or vapes who have reached the age of 18 in the GEG group will burden consumers. 

A big challenge is if those under the generational endgame category have started smoking cigarettes and want to quit smoking, but do not have access to alternative products.This will make it difficult for them to stop and at the same time continue to risk being fined if caught. This environment does not help the user to quit and is even more burdensome.

We believe that smokers should have access to viable alternative nicotine products with significantly lower negative health effects compared to cigarettes.

UK should not copy New Zealand’s Nanny State Policies

London, October 3rd, 2023 — Fred Roeder, Managing Director of the Consumer Choice Center, strongly condemns the UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s recent proposal to introduce a generational ban on smoking, as reported by The Guardian. The ban, coupled with a blanket prohibition on disposable vapes, is a regressive step that threatens to fuel the black market and infringe upon the rights of adult smokers to make their own informed choices.

The UK has long been a champion of evidence-based policies, particularly in the realm of tobacco harm reduction. However, the proposed generational ban on cigarettes, combined with the ban on disposable vapes, marks a departure from this pragmatic approach. By depriving adults of their right to choose how they consume nicotine, these measures risk driving millions of consumers towards unregulated and unsafe alternatives, undermining public health objectives in the process.

Mr. Roeder emphasizes that the UK’s smoking rates have steadily declined thanks to a comprehensive strategy that embraces harm reduction policies. By promoting alternatives such as e-cigarettes and other reduced-risk products, the UK has successfully encouraged smokers to transition away from traditional combustible cigarettes. This approach has not only reduced the harm associated with smoking but has also respected adult consumers’ autonomy and personal responsibility.

The proposed generational ban on smoking and banning disposable vapes is not only a misguided policy but also a potential boon for the black market. Prohibition has historically shown that it drives the creation of illegal markets, leading to unregulated and dangerous products. This move risks undoing the progress made in reducing smoking rates and may even exacerbate the very issues it seeks to solve.

Mr. Roeder urges the UK government to reconsider its approach and instead focus on evidence-based policies that respect individual freedom and support harm reduction initiatives. The Consumer Choice Center calls on Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and the government to engage in meaningful dialogue with experts, stakeholders, and the public to develop policies that balance public health goals with individual liberties.

The Internet didn’t need the FCC’s ‘net neutrality’ in 2015, and we definitely don’t need it now

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE | September 26, 2023

The Internet didn’t need the FCC’s ‘net neutrality in 2015, and we definitely don’t need it now

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Federal Communications Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel announced her agency is beginning the steps to reclassify broadband providers as public utilities under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934, commonly known as “net neutrality.”

This marks a step back for all American Internet users, who have thus far profited from a more innovative broadband marketplace since the repeal of these rules in 2017 by former chair Ajit Pai.

Yaël Ossowski, deputy director of the Consumer Choice Center, reacted to the announcement:

“Resurrecting the idea of Title-II regulation of the Internet, after its successful repeal in 2017, is the idea that nobody needs in 2023. Since then, we’ve seen incredible innovation and investment, as more Internet customers begin using mobile hotspots and satellite Internet, getting more Americans online than ever before.

“Regulating ISPs like water utilities or electricity providers is a path toward more government control and oversight of the Internet, plain and simple,” said Ossowski.

“As we’ve seen with the recent Missouri v. Biden court case, today’s major Internet problem isn’t broadband providers blocking certain access or services, but government agencies attempting to strong-arm and jawbone Internet providers and platforms into censoring or removing content they don’t agree with. This is more concerning than any worst-case scenario dreamed up by FCC commissioners.

“Bringing these dead regulations back to life will be a losing issue for millions of Americans who enjoy greater Internet access and services than ever before.

“Rather than support Americans’ access to the Internet, it stands to threaten the vast entrepreneurial and tech spaces across our country and will push companies to set up in jurisdictions that promise true Internet freedom rather than state-imposed regulation of content and delivery of Internet services.

“We implore the FCC to whole an open and honest public engagement process on these proposed net neutrality regulations, and we are certain consumers will have their say against this proposal,” added Ossowski.

Contact

Stephen Kent, Media Director

Stephen@consumerchoicecenter.org 


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

***Please send media inquiries to yael@consumerchoicecenter.org.***

Biden’s FTC is declaring war on consumer preferences in their latest Amazon antitrust lawsuit 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE | September 26, 2023

The FTC’s latest Amazon antitrust case seeks to end your consumer preferences

WASHINGTON, D.C. – This morning, the Federal Trade Commission launched another antitrust lawsuit against the tech firm Amazon, claiming that unique offerings to Amazon Prime subscribers, including faster logistics, bundled services, and low prices, are somehow harmful to consumers and should result in the company being broken up.

Yaël Ossowski, deputy director of the Consumer Choice Center reacted to the lawsuit:

“Consumers know they’re getting a myriad of benefits with their Prime subscription, whether that’s faster delivery, cheaper prices, or bundled services like data storage and content streaming. That’s what consumers want, and why millions buy from Amazon everyday.

“I think many Americans would be appalled if they learned what Biden’s FTC is proposing with these lawsuits: that Amazon Prime, as it stands, should cease to exist.

“That the FTC would waste their resources going after an innovative company that consistently offers value for consumers reveals more about the agency’s political grudge than any perceived harm to consumers. Consumers have overwhelmingly had their welfare increased because of Amazon’s products and services. Government efforts to break that up are harmful to consumers.

“Behind the U.S. military, Amazon is the most favorable institution in the country, mainly because millions of consumers have had experience with Amazon’s platform, have been employed by the company, or have used their services in any way,” said Ossowski.

“It is well known FTC Chair Lina Khan has spent her career trying to build an antitrust lawsuit against Amazon, as is revealed in her 2017 article on “Amazon’s Antitrust Paradox, but those efforts fall flat with consumers who benefit and appreciate their services.”

“As we mentioned in our USA Today oped on this topic, consumers have voted with their wallets when it comes to Amazon’s services, including Amazon Prime. That an agency of the federal government would spend valuable time and resources trying to punish a company for offering too many affordable products and services in a unique way only seems laughable,” added Ossowski.

Contact

Stephen Kent, Media Director

Stephen@consumerchoicecenter.org 


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

***Please send media inquiries to yael@consumerchoicecenter.org.***

Consumer Choice Center Raises a Glass to Virginia’s New Chapter for Beer Distribution

RICHMOND, VA  — The Consumer Choice Center (CCC) enthusiastically welcomes a recent development in Virginia’s approach to beer regulation, marked by the recent signing of the state budget by Governor Glenn Youngkin. This budget allocates funding for the creation of the Virginia Beer Distribution Co. (VBDC), a branch of the state’s Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. The VBDC will set Virginia breweries free to self-distribute limited quantities of their products directly to retailers and restaurants. 

Yael Ossowski, deputy director of the Consumer Choice Center weighed in on the news, saying, “This is a huge win for consumers and beer lovers in Virginia. The “three-tier system” is an archaic system for getting beer in front of consumers, a remnant of Prohibition that still holds back many of Virginia’s neighbors from having the best market for beer possible.” 

The VBDC will operate primarily online and simplify the process for retailers buying beer from registered breweries. Taxes and fees will be gathered during the transactions, adding to the state’s revenue. Breweries will take on the responsibility of delivering the beer sold through the VBDC. Industry insiders project that if even just 100 breweries opt to self-distribute 500 barrels of beer each year, the new structure will generate $6.9 million in tax and fee revenue for Virginia.

Yael Ossowski continued, “Some brewers will want to use the VBDC system to grow their footprint in Virginia, and others won’t. Distribution contracts make a lot of sense for some fantastic breweries, and less sense for others. This is about choice, and Virginia just expanded it for entrepreneurs and consumers alike. We applaud this move by the House of Delegates and Gov. Youngkin. ” 

“There is still much more to do to liberalize the state’s alcohol market, but for the moment, we raise our glass to you, Virginia,” he added.

The enforcement of the smoking ban failed in restaurants, the Generational Endgame will increase illegal trade 

KUALA LUMPUR, 18th Sep 2023 – The Consumer Choice Center (CCC) has just published a Report on the Roundtable Discussion on Smoking Product Control in Public Health: Room for Improvement held on 23 August 2023 recently at the Majestic Hotel, Kuala Lumpur. 

Representative of the Malaysian Consumer Choice Center, Tarmizi Anuwar said: “The main purpose of the round table discussion is to get alternative views from experts in various fields as well as comprehensively assess and scrutinize the bill taking into account health, legal, economic and feasibility aspects. In addition, this report aims to provide proposals for improving the bill to the Special Select Committee, the Ministry of Health and policy makers.”

In addition, Tarmizi emphasized that this report is important to be examined by policy makers to ensure that the Generational Endgame policy to be implemented is studied more deeply and takes a more practical and feasible approach to reduce smoking rates in Malaysia.

“Policy makers should examine the essence of this report because our concern is that this tobacco bill will end up with an increase in illegal trade and the lack of a comprehensive impact assessment especially on consumers.”

“In addition, the Government also needs to carry out a more meaningful and quality engagement process to ensure that every stakeholder is properly involved in the consultation process. We don’t want to just be given a 10-to-15-minute presentation but not have any further discussion after that.”  

According to YB Dr. Afif Bahardin who is the Taman Medan assemblyman, he thinks that Generational Endgame will fail due to lack of resources and human capital. This is based on his experience dealing with the Ministry of Health while serving as the Member of the Penang State Executive Council who tried to make Penang a smoke-free zone but was unsuccessful. 

“In Malaysia, the illegal trade is rampant and from my point of view GEG will fail, just like how Penang tried to do it before. We need to focus on how to control smoking. There are currently no vaping regulations and no regulations on nicotine levels. Get support from everyone not only from enforcement but also for the community. Also, instead of focusing on introducing new bills. Restaurants still have people smoking, enforcement needs to be there. I think supporting community education is much more important than imposing new laws”, he said.

In addition, Kue Kok Meng as the President of the Petaling Jaya Coffee Shop Association said that until now the Ministry of Health or law enforcement cannot control the current laws such as smoking in restaurants. 

“In the coffee shop I don’t see law enforcement coming to ban people from smoking. The government has made all the advertisements but people still smoke. Most importantly, the responsibility of enforcement should be done by enforcement agencies and not coffee shops.”

According to Benedict Weerasena until May 2021, illegal cigarettes continue to increase and emphasizes the importance of enforcement to deal with the issue of illegal trade before introducing the end generation policy. 

“The impact on GEG for retailers is lost revenue, compliance costs, equipment costs, monitoring costs, opportunity costs and legal fees. Based on our study, the total enforcement cost for GEG is estimated at RM 303 million per year including tobacco track costs, public awareness campaigns, administrative costs, additional enforcement to curb the growth of the illegal cigarette market.”

“We don’t want to be like South Africa in March 2020 when their government introduced a ban on the sale of tobacco products. But 93% of smokers can still continue to buy cigarettes and the average price has increased by 250%. If this matter is not controlled it creates a negative perception that our country prioritizes smuggling over legitimate sources.” he said. 

Download the full report here

Consumer Choice Center rejects the DOJ’s politicized attack on Google

Google is about to fight the first serious antitrust battle of the 21st century. Beginning this week, the Department of Justice (DOJ) will argue in federal court that Google engaged in anticompetitive practices to maintain its status as the most popular search engine in the world. 

The claim, being put before Obama appointee Judge Amit P. Mehta, is that Google wrongfully entered into exclusivity agreements with smartphone manufacturers, including Apple and Samsung, to preinstall its search engine as the default option on their device web browsers. 

Stephen Kent, Media Director for the Consumer Choice Center, an international consumer advocacy group based in Washington, D.C., said of the DOJ’s case, “Antitrust cases like this are predicated on the false assumption that consumers have been duped into using a product, even when that product is broadly accepted as the gold standard for its industry. This is a waste of time for our court system.” 

The lawsuit was originally brought in October 2020 by then-Attorney General Bill Barr, during the final months of the Trump administration. The suit contends that Google has illegally kept the public from easy access to Microsoft’s Bing, Mozilla, and DuckDuckGo for online searches. If Judge Mehta agrees, Google could be forced to restructure. 

Default search engine deals are commonplace in the development of web browsers. Consumers enjoy ready-to-use products and expect a quality experience. That’s why Mozilla canceled its deal with Yahoo in 2017 for a default search arrangement, reinstating Google Search. So many consumers were switching manually, Mozilla responded in an effort to protect their own brand.

The Consumer Choice Center stands against this politicized attack by the Department of Justice on Google. Mobile device manufacturers want consumers to have a top-notch experience when using their product, and presetting Google as the search engine is within their right. “I’ve used DuckDuckGo on my iPhone now for several years, and even now it takes just four clicks to switch back to Google, Bing or Yahoo,” Kent continued, “This suit is about distracting Google from its core business, bogging them down to prevent further growth, and making an example of a major tech company for political points at a time of bipartisan skepticism of the tech sector. This does nothing to improve consumer welfare, and will harm future innovation that consumers demand.”

The special exemption of SpaceX operating in Malaysia is inconsistent with technological neutrality

The Consumer Choice Center (CCC) emphasizes the importance of the government supporting and maintaining technological neutrality as the best mechanism to allow companies to operate and invest in Malaysia.

Representative of the Malaysian Consumer Choice Center, Tarmizi Anuwar said: “The government should have to provide a level playing field for every investor who wants to invest in this country without giving privileges to any party. The special exception of SpaceX being granted a Network Facility and Service Provider (NFP/NSP) license for a period of 10 years with full foreign equity ownership is inconsistent. In general, CCC agrees with the policy of full ownership of foreign equity, but it needs to be a policy that can be used by all parties.”

In addition, Tarmizi commented on the exemption conditions from the Minister for the 49 percent threshold policy for foreign equity on NFP and NSP licensees, sending a signal to potential investors that the government’s policy can change according to the investors they like. 

“The government needs to adopt the principle of technological neutrality in investment policies for all parties fairly. In order to ensure that the country becomes a major investment destination at the regional level and has a high global competitiveness, the policies implemented need to be clear, open and consistent, and not practice favoritism.”

“If soon, other satellite providers such as Amazon’s Project Kuiper, HughesNet or Viasat are able to provide more competitive prices and better services, will the government impose the same exemption? An inconsistent policy will send a message that the government is trying to protect certain investors,” he said.

Commenting on Communications and Digital Minister Fahmi Fadzil’s statement regarding the installation of 10 Starlink kits to Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) in Kuala Pilah, Perak, Tawau and Sarawak to solve their internet problems, Tarmizi thinks the government needs to re-evaluate the priority and main purpose of installing these satellites.

“The main purpose of installing this communication satellite is to bridge the digital divide in rural areas. While all these universities have a fiber network and 5G. This installation is considered irrational because it is installed in educational facilities that already have access to high-speed internet. In addition, the price of Starlink is also much more expensive than fiber.” 

“Hence, the government needs to re-evaluate populated areas that really need and face internet access issues, due to geographical and infrastructure challenges.” he concluded.

The FTC has lost their bid to kill the Microsoft-Activision/Blizzard deal

It’s a great day for consumer choice worldwide, as a ruling has been issued out of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California from Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley, denying the Federal Trade Commission’s request for a preliminary injunction to halt the acquisition of Activision-Blizzard by Microsoft. 

“The FTC set out it seems, to protect the business interests of Sony’s PlayStation, completely ignoring their duty to regulate in the interest of American consumers. Judge Corley called out the FTC on it during the hearings and has delivered a sharp ruling here that will allow the deal to go forward,” said Stephen Kent, Media Director for the Consumer Choice Center. “President Biden should be taking note of how poor FTC Chair Lina Khan has been at her job, and how far she’s strayed from the mission of consumer protection.” 

<< Read: The Federal Trade Commission’s embarrassing antitrust crusade | by Stephen Kent of the Consumer Choice Center (The Hill) >>

After five days of hearings involving the FTC, Microsoft, Activision-Blizzard, Sony, and Nintendo, Judge Corley pointed out on the final day that the FTC had fallen short of providing a consumer interest to justify blocking the deal, saying “This is about harms to the consumer, not to Sony.”

“The Consumer Choice Center is excited to see gamers win this case brought by the FTC, because they are indeed the real winners in Microsoft coming together with a top-notch game developer like Activision-Blizzard,” added Kent. 

The deal has one more hurdle to clear in the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority, and we have confidence that they too will join the rest of the world’s consumer protection agencies in letting the acquisition deal close by its July 18th deadline.

Read the ruling here

Technological neutrality is the best mechanism of cyber security and protects consumer data privacy

KUALA LUMPUR, 26 th June 2023 – The Consumer Choice Center (CCC) emphasizes the
importance of governments supporting and maintaining technological neutrality in putting in
place the best mechanisms for cybersecurity systems and consumer data protection.

Representative of the Malaysian Consumer Choice Center, Tarmizi Anuwar said: “Technology
changes very quickly and faster than amendments or changes in laws. In this regard, laws that
are friendly to innovation and technology or so-called neutral technology need to be prepared so
that healthy competition between private companies becomes the best method of determining
the mechanism in data privacy regulations.”

In addition, Tarmizi commented on the recommendation of the Minister of Communications and
Digital that the private sector makes investments related to aspects of cyber security and data
privacy according to the appropriateness of their respective operational levels which is
considered positive. However, it is necessary to remain consistent and not put an excessive
burden on the private sector.

“The recommendation can be considered good because the enforcement of interoperability
standards can be prepared and implemented by the firm that handles the data, and is not
necessarily determined by law. This will also give space to start-up companies to operate at a
cost that matches their capabilities.”

“Basically, every company has its own interest in protecting the cyber security or privacy data of
their consumers. Excessive legal stipulations such as imposing specific software will cause an
increase in business costs and subsequently increase prices for consumers”, he said.

Explaining Malaysia’s efforts to collaborate with Southeast Asian countries in creating a data
sharing protocol to become a regional data processing hub, he said the government must make
the concept of industry-based data portability as the main standard.

“In order to become a regional data processing hub, the government needs to use industry
standards as the main policy and strategy. This standard is a faster and more efficient way and
is able to coordinate the differences in laws in each country to enforce and regulate portability
over the law.” he concluded.

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