United States

Attempts To Block Facebook’s Libra Cryptocurrency May Backfire

Consumer group: Congressional attempt to block Facebook‘s Libra cryptocurrency harms consumer choice and will backfire

Washington, D.C. – Days after Facebook announced its new Libra cryptocurrency project, federal lawmakers issued stark warnings to the social media platform, and have now requested the project be put on ice.

The lawmakers issuing the warnings were Rep. Maxime Waters, chair of the House Financial Services Committee, as well as ranking member Rep. Patrick McHenry. Sens. Mark Warner and Sherrod Brown both stated independently that Congress “cannot allow” such a project.

In response, Consumer Choice Center Deputy Director Yael Ossowski says the lawmakers’ threats are harmful to consumer choice, and will ultimately backfire.

“Overseeing regulation on Internet and financial firms is important, but the ‘regulate first, innovate later’ mentality that came in response to Libra should give every Internet user pause. If every new Internet innovation is now subject to kneejerk congressional approval, that sets a dangerous precedent for the future of consumer choice online,” said Ossowski.

“Consumers have the right to choose if they want to use cryptocurrencies or social networks, and are aware of the great risks and benefits that go along with that. People want an alternative and they’re interested in new digital tools online. That’s why there is so much interest.

“Allowing political figures to freeze future innovations and projects because of temporary partisan politics will keep millions of consumers from being able to enjoy regular goods and services they enjoy online, not to mention being able to connect with thousands of their friends and family online.

“And it won’t stop here. If these threats continue, Bitcoin and dozens of other cryptocurrencies, as well as other social media platforms that millions of users have adopted, will also face well-intended but flawed regulation.

“We must have smart regulation that encourages competition, protects privacy, and ensures consumer choice. Prior restraint of innovation would be the opposite of that,” said Ossowski.


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.

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A Recipe for A Better World; Nine Parts Innovation, One Part Regulation

“To protect the environment, our health, and promote the social good we have to live more austere lives.”

How often have we heard something along these lines? The problem is, it’s not a very effective approach. 

Tackling the world’s most intractable problems, preserving freedoms and making life better for everyone requires something often overlooked by many who are sincerely interested in making the world better. If advocates for austere living promote bleeding heart liberalism, I believe we should stand for bleeding heart market advocacy.

For a better world, we need more innovation.  

True, the world would be better off if there were more generosity and kindness. But technological innovation, usually backed by private investment, is the most important ingredient for a healthier and yes—more enjoyable—planet.

Meatless Choice

I enjoy eating meat. Although I am sympathetic to concerns about the impacts from eating meat, some more valid than others, I’m not willing to become a vegetarian. Some have gone so far as to propose a sin tax on meat to fight climate change. Whether it is animal welfare, the environment, or my own health, a reduction in my consumption of meat would only please other people. And they are out of luck. At least until now.

Patrick Brown, a biochemistry professor at Stanford saw industrial animal agriculture as the top environmental threat. “I started doing the typical misguided academic approach to the problem,” he said in a Pacific Standard Interview  in 2016. The magazine reported that “he organized an A-list 2010 National Research Council workshop in Washington called “The Role of Animal Agriculture in a Sustainable 21st Century Global Food System,’ which caused not a ripple. Not long after, he determined that the only real way to impact meat production would be to beat it in the free market.”  

Brown, now sounding like a mission-driven innovator, rather than a government funded activist, said “All you have to do is make a product that the current consumers … prefer to what they’re getting now. ” He added that “It’s easier to change people’s behavior than to change their minds.”

With seed funding from Bill Gates, Google, and other innovation-oriented investors, Impossible Foods has deployed scientists to develop plant-based meat alternatives meant to appeal not to vegetarians, but to meat-lovers like me. Unlike vege-burgers, which appeal primary to vegetarians, the goal of this new class of alternatives to burgers are meant to appeal to meat eaters. That’s why they‘ve been rolling it out it as a “plant-based meat” in fast food restaurants known for beef burgers.

The innovation has been the target of displeasure from cattle-ranchers, opposition from environmental activists, and, this is hard to believe, outrage from PETA. Leftist food elitists are also furious. Adrionna Fike of the Mandela Grocery Cooperative criticized the company for trying to switch burger lovers at Burger King because “They exploit so many workers  Think about all the migrant workers.” 

Yet the Impossible Burger and other disruptors like Beyond Meat are taking root in the U.S. market. The Food and Drug Administration recently backed the safety of Impossible Foods’ plant-sourced Leghemoglobin. The protein contains heme, also present in real meat, and is partly responsible for the taste, texture and appearance of bloody-good meat.

The burger even cleared another major regulatory hurdle in May, when it was certified kosher by the Orthodox Union.  

Consumers clearly have an appetite for meaty tasting alternatives to livestock products; The company is facing supply shortages as it ramps up production of Version 2.0, sold at fast food outlets including Burger King, even before it becomes available in the meat department at supermarkets later this year. Food behemoth Nestle just joined the feeding frenzy, announcingthe launch of their own plant-based burger in the fall.

While I may not become a vegetarian, the Impossible Burger and its technological offspring increase the likelihood that I’ll reduce my meat consumption, should I so choose. That’s good news for those who think the world will be better off if I ate less meat. This outcome won’t restrict my freedom, rather it gives me – and many like me – more choices. It is important to note that it came about as the result of private-sector innovation, timely government clearance, and no costly, finger-wagging “public education” campaigns.  

Tobacco Harm Reduction

Cigarette smoking remains a top killer around the world. Even in countries with the strictest anti-smoking taxes and regulations, smoking is still a scourge. It turns out that regulations and taxes do little to help addicted smokers quit, yet many in the tobacco control community continue to oppose tobacco harm reducing technologies, instead calling for only technology-killing regulation, as if that were the only tool in their toolbox. 

In fact, innovative products like e-cigarettes and heated tobacco can—and do—help smokers quit smoking, even though they are not without risk. As the U.S. FDA explains it, “nicotine – while highly addictive – is delivered through products that represent a continuum of risk and is most harmful when delivered through smoke particles in combustible cigarettes.”

Yet innovative companies like Juul, who create alternatives to cigarettes, are seen by many in public health as public enemy number one. But it really shouldn’t be so complicated or divisive. 

E-cigarettes are not entirely safe and they should not be used by kids. The FDA and local governments should use the regulatory and enforcement power and budgets they already have to prevent kids from obtaining e-cigarettes.  Schools and parents should use their moral authority to prevent kids from using them. And regulators should foster an environment which encourages innovation to develop a range of enjoyable and less harmful alternatives for adults who wish to use nicotine.

To its credit, the FDA recently authorized the sale of IQOS, a heated tobacco product, finding that the product is “appropriate for the protection of the public health because, among several key considerations, the products produce fewer or lower levels of some toxins than combustible cigarettes.”

Even a leading skeptic of the benefits of e-cigarettes for smoking cessation recently found it necessary to make a major course correction. In a caveat-rich policy statement, the American Cancer Society acknowledged that “switching to the exclusive use of e-cigarettes is preferable to continuing to smoke combustible products.” ACS’s Clinical Recommendations state that the organization supports “any smoker who is considering quitting, no matter what approach they use.”  

ACS now recommends “that clinicians support all attempts to quit the use of combustible tobacco and work with smokers to eventually stop using any tobacco product, including e-cigarettes.” Finally, and rather reasonably, the ACS advises that “these individuals should be encouraged to switch to the least harmful form of tobacco product possible; switching to the exclusive use of e-cigarettes is preferable to continuing smoking combustible products.”  Unfortunately, the science hasn’t gotten down to ACS’s lobbyists, who continue to call for a ban on the e-cigarette flavors adult smokers use to quit.

In the UK, government health officials estimate that e-cigarettes could already be helping at least 20,000 smokers quit annually, and that’s a conservative estimate, they say. 

Professor John Newton, director for health improvement at Public Health England said the government’s review “reinforces the finding that vaping is a fraction of the risk of smoking, at least 95 percent less harmful, and of negligible risk to bystanders.” To those who continue to sow doubt about the difference in risk between cigarettes and e-cigarettes, Professor Newton noted that “it would be tragic if thousands of smokers who could quit with the help of an e-cigarette are being put off due to false fears about their safety.” 

Who are these modern day merchants of doubt?

Big pharma, which makes FDA approved (but largely ineffective) nicotine replacement therapies and smoking cessation drugs has a lot to lose. Companies such as Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline are major backers of highly-regarded but old-school tobacco control groups including the American Lung Association, the American Heart Association and the American Cancer Society, which regularly lobby to treat e-cigarettes just like cigarettes. 

Tobacco companies who don’t successfully innovate, also have a lot to lose if the cigarette goes the way of the rotary phone. No wonder some back costly regulatory schemes which serve as a barrier to entry to pesky competitors. 

Innovation-Oriented Problem Solving

Disruptive innovation is not only technologically difficult, but as Impossible Foods is learning, bringing game-changing products to market requires overcoming obstacles from entrenched interests. Those interests frequently masquerade as being in the public interest, but are often anything but.  

I recommend we shift our perspective. If we want to solve problems while protecting our enviable lifestyle we should embrace the idea that imaginative solutions, rather than reliance on ever-more restrictive regulations, are our best hope. Appropriately narrow regulation protects safety while also fostering innovation. 

Sometimes well-intentioned, restrictive government interventions are backward-looking problem-solving tools. Too often, they fail to deliver on the promises made to justify their costs, both in terms of unintended consequences and their cost to individual freedoms. Technological advances, however, are solution-oriented and can make real strides against problems that seem otherwise impossible to overcome. And in today’s polarized environment, that’s no nothing-burger. 

* * * 

Jeff Stier is a Senior Fellow at the Consumer Choice Center and a member of the Federalist Society’s Regulatory Transparency Project FDA Working Group.

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Juul’s Latest Play to Survive Washington, D.C.: Win Over Black Lawmakers

“It’s about time someone’s reaching out to the communities that need the most help,” said Jeff Stier, a senior fellow at the Consumer Choice Center and a leading vaping advocate, in an interview with The Daily Beast.

But Stier acknowledged that, beyond potential public health benefits, there’s also a political upside to the strategy.

“If you’re making arguments like I often make about consumer choice, those arguments on the e-cig front don’t always resonate with the people who represent a disproportionate number of smokers,” Stier said. “So you may not make the same argument to Rand Paul that you would to a congressman in the African-American community.”

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OPINION: Craft Beer Law a Win for Consumer Choice, But We Need More Alcohol Reform

Consumer Choice Center Deputy Director Yaël Ossowski applauded the move but said more needs to be done for true alcohol reform in North Carolina.

“This new law will allow breweries to expand and ship more product across the state, giving North Carolina consumers greater access to their favorite craft brews. That’s a huge win for consumer choice,” said Ossowski.

“But we need to go further if we want true alcohol reform. There are bills in both the House and Senate that would green light liquor tastings onsite, finally allow people to purchase their alcohol online, and remove the cap on how much distillers are able to sell to consumers.

“Another big priority should be ending the state monopoly on liquor sales and the outdated ABC system, which raises costs for consumers, misallocates capital better used by private enterprise, and gives too much authority to politicians and administrators as economic planners rather than regulators.

“Bringing North Carolina into the 21st Century when it comes to alcohol policy should be a priority for state legislators, and the latest moves coming out of Raleigh are a welcome sign,” said Ossowski.

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.

Read more here

Could CBD Be Snatched From Traditional Retailers?

Yael Ossowski, deputy director of the Consumer Choice Center, described himself as being “on the side of consumers” and called for the FDA to set some standards and regulations but also “allow companies and brands to exist. That’s the only way consumers can differentiate between good products and bad products.”

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Two big victories for consumer choice and modernized alcohol policy

The warm months are delivering some great news when it comes to increased consumer choice and modernized alcohol policy across North America.

ONTARIO

The first success story comes from the Canadian province of Ontario, where Premier Doug Ford has announced the end of the province’s exclusive contract with The Beer Store, the beer monopoly.

When announcing the policy, Ontario Finance Minister Victor Fedeli quoted the words of Consumer Choice Center North American Affairs Manager David Clement, who has contributed to the debate to open up beer sales across the province.

This positive move comes on the same day the government announced it would be expanding alcohol sales in LCBO stores across the province, after which Clement says “consumers across the province would appreciate more access to alcoholic drinks over the summer months.

The Consumer Choice Center played a pivotal role is shaping the policy debate in favor of modernized alcohol policy and consumer choice, and will continue to do so across the country.

“Today’s alcohol announcement is a step in the right direction,” said David Clement. “The move helps underserved regions, while maxing out the amount of grocery stores allowed under the Master Framework Agreement (MFA). It is positive to see these changes while the province undergoes the process of scrapping the MFA and allowing for alcohol sales in convenience stores.”

“We are hopeful that the announcement could increase access over the summer months, which would definitely be appreciated by consumers province-wide.” said Clement.

NORTH CAROLINA

Following the positive vibes from the Great White North, the state of North Carolina also had a major alcohol policy modernization pass.

Last Thursday Gov. Roy Cooper signed House Bill 363, the Craft Beer Distribution and Modernization Act. The law will allow craft brewers to self-distribute more than twice was allowed previously without a wholesaler.

That measure will allow breweries to expand and ship more product across the state, giving North Carolina consumers greater access to their favorite craft brews.

I have written about this topic for the Charlotte Observer (here and here) and been interviewed about it on the radio on the Joe Catenacci Show and the Chad Adams Show.

Much like above, there is still a lot that needs to be done to have a true modern alcohol policy in the Tar Heel State. Ending the state’s monopoly of ABC stores (that sell liquor) would be prime, and the next would be allowing distilleries to offer and sell their products on site and for delivery.

Regardless, these are two big victories for consumer choice and modernized alcohol policy, giving consumers more of a say, more choice, and better options!

Opinion: Facebook trustbusters motivated by partisan politics, not consumer protection

Channeling the spirit of Theodore Roosevelt and nostalgia for the early 20th century Progressive Era, the latest bad idea being circulated in elite circles is to use the trust-busting power of the federal government to break up the social network Facebook.

The idea has been promoted by such Democratic politicians as Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar, and Republicans like Sen. Ted Cruz. Even Chris Hughes, a Facebook co-founder, has hitched his wagon to the idea, as expressed in his now infamous New York Times op-ed.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg makes the keynote speech at F8, the Facebook’s developer conference, Tuesday, April 30, 2019, in San Jose, Calif.
Tony Avelar, AP

But let’s not kid ourselves. We’re not dealing with a corporate monopoly akin to Standard Oil, U.S. Steel or even Microsoft. We’re talking about social media websites and services available on the open web.

No one is forced to use these platforms, and are very free and cheaply able to create their own. This is not a monopoly in the literal sense, or even a figurative one.

There are already plenty of competing social networks that people use for a host of services. Whether it’s Snapchat, Reddit, Pinterest or Twitter, there are plenty of services where people connect with friends and share information. Facebook just happens to have “clued in” to the needs of the greatest numbers of consumers. Does that warrant government intervention? No.

Let’s be clear: The internet is the ultimate playground for consumer choice. Government attempts to intervene and regulate based on political considerations, however, will only restrict consumer choice and deprive us of what we’ve thus far enjoyed.

No doubt, some actions by the company have been egregious and they’ll be rightfully punished. The Federal Trade Commission’s expected $5 billion fine on Facebook because of its mishandling of data and consumer privacy is a good first step.

But the movement calling on federal regulators to use their power to break up the company reeks of partisan politics.

Democrats are incensed that users on the platform may have been persuaded to vote for Donald Trump in the 2016 election due to an impressive outreach effort by the Trump campaign (not to mention alleged Russian front groups). Republicans, on the other hand, decry Facebook’s liberal-heavy moderation that has specifically targeted conservative pages and posts. Its censoring of a post citing the Declaration of Independence because it was considered “hate speech” is just one example.

But from what we’ve learned from Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and other tech elites, banning individuals or pages are highly complex decisions made by thousands of moderators who follow an internal set of guidelines, whether at YouTube, Twitter or Facebook. The investigative article published on the Verge about Facebook moderators’ workload and stress while removing bad content from the platform speaks to that.

Despite these follies, the overwhelming majority of users are happy with their profiles. They’re able to connect with friends and family around the world, and share images and posts that spark conversations. Millions of small businesses, artists, and even news websites are dependent on these platforms to make their living.

Using the force of government to break apart businesses because of particular stances or actions they’ve taken, all legal under current law, is highly vindictive and will restrict the ability for ordinary people like myself or millions of other consumers to enjoy the platforms for which we voluntarily signed up.

We should hold these platforms accountable when they make mistakes, but not tip our hand to invite the federal government to determine which sites or platforms we can click on.

The government’s role is not to pick winners and losers. It’s to ensure our rights to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness, as the Declaration of Independence states. Let’s not use temporary partisan politics to determine the fate of online services and platforms from which we all enjoy and benefit.

Yaël Ossowski is a consumer advocate and deputy director of the Consumer Choice Center. He wrote this for InsideSources.com.

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Trump’s 6-Month Window To Limit Car Imports Might Lead To A New Trade War

Washington D.C.: President Trump will give the EU and Japan six months to agree to a deal that would “limit or restrict” imports of automobiles and their parts into the US. It is claimed that car imports threaten national security since they have hurt domestic producers and their ability to invest in new technologies.

In response, Consumer Choice Center Deputy Director Yael Ossowski warned that by making such a treat, President Trump asserted his intention not to proceed with a cooperative solution. Where there is no political will to cooperate on trade, there’s an increasing possibility of a trade war.

“First and foremost, claims that car imports hurt domestic producers and their investing ability are ignorant of the interests of American consumers. Should Japan and the EU limit their supply of cars, consumers in the US will have to bear the costs in the form of higher prices. Protecting an industry at the expense of domestic consumers has never made any country better off,” said Ossowski.

“Trump’s decision will, ironically, hurt the ones it seeks to protect. The US car industry is heavily dependent on imports of car parts. If the EU and Japan limit their supply of car parts to the US market, the domestic sales and production will be restrained. The consequences will be numerous and damaging, and all Americans will have to bear them.

“Chances are high that Trump’s decision will spark a new trade war and impede international cooperation. Trade wars are always lose-lose. They must be stopped in the early stages and prevented altogether. If President Trump cares about the welfare of consumers and producers in his own country, it is high time he learned that free trade is the only way forward,” concluded Ossowski.


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.

Read more here

POLL: US consumers want government to keep hands off the tech sector and embrace vaping

Washington, D.C., May 14, 2019 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — The Consumer Choice Center commissioned the polling institute Kantar to conduct an international consumer poll in four countries. In March 2019, a total of 8,166 adults in the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, and Germany were asked about their views on government policies and consumer rights.Commenting on the findings featured below, Yaël Ossowski, Deputy Director at the Consumer Choice Center, said it was refreshing to see that American consumers are well aware of their freedom to choose, and of the benefits that follow from it.

Key findings:

— 3 out of 4 millennials think the government should take a step back when it comes to regulating the sharing and digital economy — 77 percent of Americans believe that governments should avoid intervening with these newer tech-enabled businesses (like Uber, Airbnb and Netflix) where possible to ensure consumers have the greatest possible choice of services. The 18-44 age group is more likely to agree — Two-thirds of people agree that they should have the freedom of choice to buy e-cigarettes if they believe they are a lower health risk to them than tobacco — 72 percent of Americans agree that in a democracy, the government should protect freedom of choice for consumers

— Younger age groups are more likely to agree that people should have the freedom of choice to buy e-cigarettes if they believe they are a lower health risk to them than tobacco

“While the mantra on Capitol Hill is to further regulate and intervene in the tech sector, consumers are overwhelming in favor of innovation and don’t want additional regulation,” said Ossowski. “Indeed, they want to ensure they have their freedom to choose respected.”

“In regard to e-cigarettes, it is clear that American consumers rejoice in their freedom to use vaping products to help them stop smoking. However, there’s still room for improvement. The FDA’s reluctance to embrace vaping technologies as a way to reduce harm is leaving millions of consumers behind. US consumers favor harm reduction, and this freedom should be embraced.

“We want to use the findings of this poll to prove that consumers are loud, proud, impactful, and should have their point of view heard. Consumers, contrary to voters, have to make choices every day, and those have an immediate tangible impact on each individual’s life. Policymakers simply can’t afford to be ignorant of consumer choice,” concluded Ossowski.

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.

Read more here

POLL: US consumers want government to keep hands off the tech sector and embrace vaping

Washington, D.C., May 14, 2019 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — The Consumer Choice Center commissioned the polling institute Kantar to conduct an international consumer poll in four countries. In March 2019, a total of 8,166 adults in the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, and Germany were asked about their views on government policies and consumer rights.

Commenting on the findings featured below, Yaël Ossowski, Deputy Director at the Consumer Choice Center, said it was refreshing to see that American consumers are well aware of their freedom to choose, and of the benefits that follow from it.

Key findings:

  • 3 out of 4 millennials think the government should take a step back when it comes to regulating the sharing and digital economy
  • 77 percent of Americans believe that governments should avoid intervening with these newer tech-enabled businesses (like Uber, Airbnb and Netflix) where possible to ensure consumers have the greatest possible choice of services. The 18-44 age group is more likely to agree
  • Two-thirds of people agree that they should have the freedom of choice to buy e-cigarettes if they believe they are a lower health risk to them than tobacco
  • 72 percent of Americans agree that in a democracy, the government should protect freedom of choice for consumers
  • Younger age groups are more likely to agree that people should have the freedom of choice to buy e-cigarettes if they believe they are a lower health risk to them than tobacco

“While the mantra on Capitol Hill is to further regulate and intervene in the tech sector, consumers are overwhelming in favor of innovation and don’t want additional regulation,” said Ossowski. “Indeed, they want to ensure they have their freedom to choose respected.”

“In regard to e-cigarettes, it is clear that American consumers rejoice in their freedom to use vaping products to help them stop smoking. However, there’s still room for improvement. The FDA’s reluctance to embrace vaping technologies as a way to reduce harm is leaving millions of consumers behind. US consumers favor harm reduction, and this freedom should be embraced.

“We want to use the findings of this poll to prove that consumers are loud, proud, impactful, and should have their point of view heard. Consumers, contrary to voters, have to make choices every day, and those have an immediate tangible impact on each individual’s life. Policymakers simply can’t afford to be ignorant of consumer choice,” concluded Ossowski.

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.

Read more here

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