Our Success Stories

Success Story: Reducing the burden of compulsory licensing on Brazilian consumers

The Issue:

In 2021, the Senate introduced a bill (Projeto de Lei n° 12, de 2021) to suspend the obligations of the Federative Republic of Brazil to implement or apply the TRIPS Agreement in relation to the prevention, containment or treatment of COVID-19 while the public health emergency remained in force. In other words, a law that would introduce compulsory licensing for all COVID-19 vaccines and technologies – something that was not only unprecedented but would also go against the TRIPS agreement, to which Brazil is a signatory.

The bill was passed in Congress in both houses and went to the approval of President Jair Bolsonaro. However, the President vetoed three key paragraphs:

8, “The holder of the patent or patent application subject to a compulsory license must provide the necessary and sufficient information for the effective reproduction of the object protected by the patent.”

9, “If there is biological material essential for the practical realisation of the object protected by the patent or by the patent application, the holder must provide such material to the licensee”, and 

10, Imposed penalties if the holder of the patent or patent application refuses to provide the information or biological material

The redacted bill went back to Congress to further discussion and final voting that could have overridden the veto and reinstated the removed paragraphs.

The entire bill n° 12 of 2021, but particularly paragraphs 8, 9 and 10, would have had terrible consequences for consumers and patients in Brazil, depriving them of future vaccines and medical innovations. The Consumer Choice Center promptly intervened to protect consumers.

CCC Response:

We understood that the vetoed provisions were simply unprecedented and inconsistent with the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights and denied innovators the certainty and predictability needed to confidently invest and accelerate the launch of new medicines in Brazil. Consequently, the bill would have deprived consumers and patients of life-saving drugs and vaccines because of government-created legal uncertainty. 

The moment the bill hit the Congressional floor, we began working with members of Congress and the Caucus to inform them about the risks of such legislation and the unnecessary burden to consumers and to persuade the policymakers to keep the vetoes. We sent letters presenting our arguments to both the Presidents of the House and the Senate.

Furthermore, we put the discussion to public debate, reacting, commenting and giving our expert opinion to news outlets. We were featured in a handful of influential media outlets, including Metropolis’s website, the most important about Brazil politics.

We argued that Intellectual Property was never a barrier to accessing the COVID-19 vaccines. In fact, it facilitated the collaborations among manufacturers and suppliers necessary to promote investment and access. An example of such collaboration includes the Pfizer Inc./BioNTech SE agreement with Brazilian biopharmaceutical company Eurofarma Laboratórios SA to manufacture COVID-19 mRNA vaccines for distribution within Latin America.

Pursuing flawed compulsory licensing initiatives coupled with mandatory technology transfers would have hindered Brazil’s desire to foster innovation and facilitate access to medicines. Indeed, it called into question how seriously Brazil took its international commitments and obligations.

The Outcome:

On July 5th, 2022, the bill was passed, maintaining the vetoes and thus reducing the impact and burden to consumers of the compulsory licensing. 

Even though the bill was enacted into law, we were able to keep the veto of the more egregious elements of PL nº 12/2021 including (1) provisions related to mandatory technology transfer (including trade secrets, technical information, and know-how) and the sharing of biological material related to an issued compulsory license; and (2) a provision that would have applied compulsory licensing mechanisms to COVID-19 related products, including treatments and vaccines.

Consumers in Brazil may now enjoy, for a bit longer, the marvellous and proven benefits and innovations that strong IP laws provide. We’ll be watching closely if new developments in this area arise.

Canada is repealing the excise tax on non-alcoholic beer

Non-alcoholic beer has been subject to federal excise taxes despite not containing virtually any alcohol at all. 

Our North American Affairs Manager, David Clement pointed out several problems with this tax and was invited to meet with the Ministry of Finance to explain the arguments against the tax. For example, non-alcoholic wine and spirits are exempt from the tax, which created a huge disparity for non-alcoholic beer. Removing tax would reduce costs for health-conscious consumers, who are looking for a healthier alternative to their favorite drink. This would also be consistent with the principles of harm reduction, a policy approach the current government has taken upon other issues. 

Fortunately, Budget 2022 removes alcohol excise taxes on beer containing no more than 0.5% alcohol by volume. This is another great victory for Canadian consumers!

This is a step in the right direction and hopefully the start of a national discussion on modernizing the alcohol excise duty structure.

For more information, listen to this Consumer Choice Radio episode

Ontario Government Legalizes iGaming

In the first week of April the government of Ontario launched a legal private online gambling market, which allows for consumers to wager on casino games, sporting events and other gambling activities on websites and apps that are approved by the province’s regulator.

The CCC’s North American Affairs Manager David Clement was invited to participate in the province’s consultation process with both the Attorney General’s Office and the Minister of Finance’s office. In those meetings we highlighted the need for a legal market in Ontario to ensure consumer safety in the online gambling market, and shift consumers away from the black market. 

The CCC is excited to see a safe and legal iGaming market thrive in Ontario, and hope that other provinces follow Ontario’s lead.

Ontario makes cannabis delivery and curbside pickup permanent

Ontario retailers were granted a temporary permit to offer cannabis delivery and pick-up services during the pandemic when alcohol and cannabis retail were deemed essential businesses.

Our Northern American Affairs Manager David Clement went a step further and argued in favor of making cannabis delivery permanent. According to him “It would significantly benefit retailers. But more importantly, it would benefit consumers by expanding and enhancing their options.”

We are happy to hear that the “provincial government has permanently green-lit the ability of cannabis retailers to offer delivery and curbside pickup services”. 

This is a step taken in the right direction but more needs to be done for making the cannabis delivery process smoother. There are a strict set of rules that need to be followed to comply with approved delivery or curbside pickup, and for now, third-party delivery is not permitted. 

Delivery can only be done by a retail store authorization holder or its employees, which makes it hard to keep up with the rising demand. Retailers aren’t equipped with the capital nor the expertise to operate a fleet of vehicles. The Ontario government should allow the use of third-party services to deliver, which we already permit for alcohol. Having a chance to outsource delivery to a third-party service, like delivery apps, gives legal retailers a leg up on the black market, which is still very prevalent.

Delaying the proposed law on content quotas

In February 2021, the Mexican senate proposed a new law (Ley Federal de Cinematographia y de Audiovisual) that would require a national audiovisual content quota of 15%. If the law passed, streaming services and digital platforms would have to reduce their content offer to meet a 15% national quota. To meet the quota, Prime Video, for example, would have to delete two-thirds of its library. 

CCC hosted a successful webinar to discuss the negative effects this policy would have on consumers, while not even achieving its purpose of increasing production and consumption of national content. Webinar created quite a buzz and was featured in more than 50 Mexican news outlets! CCC also interacted with members of the Mexican senate and other stakeholders to stop the law.

Fortunately, our efforts didn’t go unnoticed, the law has been delayed and will have to go under a full review and be debated in parliament according to Mexico’s legislation. We hope the Mexican parliament will leave it up to Mexican consumers to decide what movies and series they prefer to watch. 

Paid plasma collection coming to Alberta

Blood plasma is a valuable resource used to create medicines that treat burns, help those with immune deficiencies, coagulation disorders and respiratory diseases. 

The Voluntary Blood Donations Act in Alberta banned paid plasma donation in 2017. However, the voluntary system only provides 20% of supply needed, making the Province of Alberta, and the country, reliant on foreign sources.

To meet the domestic need for plasma therapies, Canada has imported more than 80 percent of these therapies from the United States, where plasma donors are compensated for their donations.

We have long advocated in support of paid plasma donations around the country and we are happy to see the Voluntary Blood Donations Repeal Act being passed. This allows private companies to pay donors for their plasma and plasma collection is expected to increase in Alberta, as it has in other jurisdictions. The CCC’s North American Affairs Manager David Clement has advocated for the allowance of paid plasma in The Western Standard, and the Toronto Star.

This is the news worth celebrating and here’s to hoping other provinces follow Alberta’s lead.

Implementing Virtual Affidavits

Manitoba’s Law Reform Commission Recommends Implementing Virtual Affidavits

After working closely with the Attorney General’s office in Ontario to bring forward virtual commissioning of legal documents via tele-conference, the CCC’s David Clement was asked to consult with Manitoba’s Law Reform Commission

Specifically, Manitoba was looking for guidance on how they could modernize their legal system and enact similar changes.

On August 31st, the Law Reform Commission released their report, where they made the suggestion that Manitoba should in fact move forward with modernizing their legal system by allowing affidavits to be taken virtually via video-conference.

The Commission acknowledged the CCC in the following way: 

The Commission gratefully acknowledges the following individuals for providing valuable feedback on this project: David Clement, North American Affairs Manager- Consumer Choice Center

The Commission officially made the following recommendation:

The Commission recommends that section 64(1) of The Manitoba Evidence Act be amended to remove the requirement that an oath, affirmation or statutory declaration be taken only in the presence of a person and to enable affidavits to be taken remotely using video-conferencing technology. (p 15)

Removing Sales Tax From Medical Cannabis

BC’s Finance Committee Recommends Removing Sales Tax From Medical Cannabis

Earlier this year our North American Affairs Manager David Clement appeared before British Columbia’s Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services to discuss cannabis taxation. In his presentation David explained that medical cannabis should be exempt from provincial sales taxes, for the following reasons:

  1. Other prescription medicines are exempt from sales taxes. Removing the sales tax from medical cannabis would simply be treating medical cannabis like the prescription medicine it is.
  2. Taxing medicine is cruel, given that many medical cannabis patients are chronically ill and have limited incomes.

In late August the Committee released their official report to the legislature, which includes a recommendation that BC remove the provincial sales tax from medical cannabis purchases.

The committee acknowledged the CCC with the following statement:

“The Committee also received recommendations to remove the PST on medical cannabis from several organizations, including Consumer Choice Center, Medical Cannabis Canada, and Aurora Cannabis Inc. They described the application of the PST as a barrier for most British Columbians who use medical cannabis, noting that many pay out-of-pocket as Pharmacare and many private insurers do not cover medical cannabis. The Arthritis Society, BC and Yukon Division shared that many individuals with arthritis use medical cannabis for pain management and that the cost barriers could lead individuals to the illicit market.”

The report officially made the following recommendation:

“Examine mechanisms in the taxation system to remove or rebate the PST for medical cannabis.”

Policy Victory Ukraine: Cancelled Tariffs on Imported Fertilisers

The Issue

In May, the Ukrainian government announced it was considering introducing tariffs on imported fertilisers from the EU. Though presented as a means to protect domestic industries, import quotas are not only highly protectionist but, more importantly, they are a sure sign there are some powerful domestic lobby interests at play. In the case of Ukraine and fertilisers, it’s the infamous oligarchs Firtash and Kolomoisky who initiated the review of Ukrainian trade policy. Both own large nitrogen enterprises and have a record of pursuing a monopolistic position on the Ukrainian market.

Small and medium farmers and Ukrainian consumers had the most to lose from the quotas.

The CCC Response

We have responded to the issue by writing extensively in Ukrainian media to criticise such a move. Trade protectionism is damaging and costly and threatens consumer choice. Our European Affairs Associate Maria Chaplia appeared in multiple Ukrainian outlets. 

The Outcome

On June 24th, the Ukrainian government decided against the quotas in favor of free trade. Trade with the EU is especially beneficial to Ukraine as it allows cheaper food production at home in Ukraine and hence lower food prices for Ukrainians. We are very proud that we have played a role in bringing about this consumer-friendly outcome.

4 million consumers, 1 policy victory!


The Issue

In 2011, the former President of Brazil – Lula – signed a law prohibiting telecommunications companies from owning at the same time both the production and distribution of audiovisual content in Brazil.

Unreasonable and undermining the freedom of the consumers choice from the beginning, this law also did not follow the evolution of streaming technologies and the growth of digital media distribution markets.

The integration of telecommunications, advertising, TV operators, internet giants and the entire digital world is a clear and growing trend all over the world, but in Brazil, the synergy of those markets was prevented from deepening due to unclear and anti-consumer choice regulations.

Fast forward to 2019 and the archaic regulation of the Brazilian TELCO market got even worse, threatening to have channels belonging to TimeWarner (p.e Warner Channel) cancelled due to its merger with AT&T (which, in Brazil, controls Sky – the PayTv Provider). The group FOX was also prohibited of selling its channels, programs and other products directly to the consumer.

Observing since the beginning the threat to free market and consumer choice on the Pay Tv market in Brazil, the Consumer Choice Center was called to act by the Brazilian consumers. We believed it was important that policymakers and the laws itself should have adapted to a new, digital world and implemented strategies and structures that made room for the digital markets, giving more freedom of choice to the consumers.

CCC’s Response

Back in June 2019, the Consumer Choice Center started mobilizing consumers and the civil society with the Chega De Barreiras campaign, which brought together online and in-person media strategies.

The landing page Chegadebarreiras.org contained information about the issue to the general public. Our policy paper “How to Prepare Brazil for a Digital Future?” was distributed among policymakers in Brasilia and other stakeholders. Social media posts and videos were created to mobilize and create empathy from consumers.

We successfully showed consumers in Brazil that their freedom of choice in particular their freedom to choose what and where to watch content was being threatened by a outdated law that did not fit the current model of digital market and content distribution. The campaign resonated with millions of people.

In addition to targeting and mobilizing consumers, our Managing Director Fred Roeder and our Brazilian Affairs Manager Andre Freo visited Brasilia, and they spoke with dozens of congressmen and members of the regulatory agency ANATEL arguing about the importance of repealing article 5 of the SEAC law (Audiovisual Communication Services Conditioned to Access Law) and the benefits for consumers and the free market. They spoke with deputies, senators and advisers of the Regulatory Agency, presenting the report and the barriers that the bureaucracy of the law created for the very development of the production and commercialization of audiovisual content in Brazil.

The Impact

Due to the work of the Consumer Choice, the Chega de Barreiras campaign reached more than 4 million people, with a high level of engagement. Our message resonated with consumers in Brazil.

This victory was consolidated in early February, when, in a historic voting, ANATEL’s board of directors relaxed the law and allowed the merger and operation of TimeWarner & AT&T in Brazil ruling it was not against Article 5 of the SeAC Law, opening precedent for new similar rulings on this subject.

Finally after 8 months of consumer activism, the Consumer Choice Center managed to be an integral part of this change ensuring that consumers in Brazil continued to have access to quality and diverse audiovisual content and even opening space for Brazil to break down more barriers to a bigger, better and stronger free market.

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