United States

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.

Read more here

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

The Sanders, AOC Credit Card Interest Cap Will Only Hurt Consumers

Washington, D.C. – Today, Sen. Bernie Sanders and U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are introducing legislation in their respective chambers to put a cap on credit card interest rates.

Yael Ossowski, Deputy Director of the Consumer Choice Center (CCC), said “This measure to cap credit card interest rates may be well-intended, but it will ultimately end up hurting low-income Americans who need access to credit most desperately.”

“By placing a cap on credit card interest rates, borrowers who would otherwise use credit cards to pay bills and buy groceries for their families will be the first ones forced out of the credit system,” said Ossowski.

“The people who need access and who depend on credit cards to cover large transactions between paychecks are usually those who cannot otherwise gain access to credit and loans from banking institutions. If a cap on rates is passed, these borrowers will be pushed out of the credit card market and will be forced to take out loans at exorbitant rates by other, possibly illegal, means.

“Thankfully, there are legions of credit cards and credit unions that can offer low or zero interest rates to consumers as introductory offers. Mandating a cap would mean these offers would virtually disappear, making it even harder for the less well-off to afford to pay bills.

“At the same time, extending the U.S. Postal Service’s mandate to become a bank is just inviting trouble, especially for a government service that can barely make a profit as it is. It is wishful thinking to suggest that politicians in Washington will be the ones to revolutionize banking for everyday Americans.

“Reducing credit card interest rates for ordinary consumers is a noble goal, but a federal cap will do more to harm consumers than good, especially the people that depend on these cards to cover their week-to-week expenses,” 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

Maine first state to ban single-use foam

It has been stated that polystyrene is non-recyclable, but Jeff Stier of the Consumer Choice Center says these foam products can indeed be recycled.

OneNewsNow interviewed Stier, a New York resident, after The Big Apple announced a ban on foam cups and containers.

Read more here

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