consumers

The Need for Competition in India’s Telecom Industry

Explaining the Indian Telecom Sector and the complexity behind competition existence?

The Indian Telecommunication Sector has experienced exponential growth and development in the past two decades. Liberalization and regulatory reforms allowed the sector to accept investments from both domestic and foreign investors.

The non-restrictive policy of the government in the 1990s allowed the inflow of cash for the sector to flourish. Private players were allowed in the market after a process of establishment of norms and regulations vital for the growth of the sector.

This was done as a part of the Liberalisation-Privatisation-Globalisation policies that the government undertook to overcome the fiscal crisis and balance of payment issues in 1991. The institution of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India was established by the government to reduce its interference in deciding the tariffs and policies.

Towards the 20th century, the government was more inclined toward reforms and liberalism. This brought more private players and foreign investors to the Indian market. Furthermore, the license fees were greatly reduced that allowed every middle-class family in India to afford a cellphone, and thereby input more surplus to the entire telecom sector. In the Indian telecom sector during the late 90s and early 20s,  the liberal policies became paramount, I would quote this as what Prof Eli. M. Noam referred to as, “the centrality of telecommunication infrastructure is a country’s economic and social life.” 

Telecom performance reports showed that about 10-14 mobile providers were existing in the country during the time and at least 5-6 providers were providing services in each of the connected areas. The competitive forces exerted by these players aided the adoption of wireless services and also helped reduce tariffs throughout. 

Despite the major policy initiatives of the past, the telecom sector is now on the verge of collapse. After years of growth, the sector is witnessing a fall due to the commercial operation of Reliance Jio. The change in tariff rates and reduction of data charges by Reliance Jio changed the economics of many telecom players. This facilitated their exit from the telecom sector.

The declining user base and increasing adjusted gross revenue made it difficult for healthy competition to equivalently exist among players. Low revenues, high taxation policies, and huge investments on spectrum and infrastructure have been causing dire trouble to the industry thereby impeding competition in the Indian telecom market.

How can one bring back competition in a scenario of restrictions and the existence of a soon-to-be-monopolized telecom sector? 

The companies are being pushed by the regulatory bodies to align the prices in line with the costs of production, and this makes it difficult for competition to exist. In a digital India, the telecom sector needs survival, and for this, we need three players who are not on the brink of a dire financial crisis. The sector needs decentralization of purchasing and decision power to regulate more efficiently. The profit margins are decreasing and telcos need to level up the information and communications information to adapt to a digital transformed way. This can be done by creating a strong cross-functional interface.

IT and connectivity should be updated and should be reliant on technological innovations and customer expectations. Establishing policies to abolish the license fee based on adjusted gross revenue needs to be looked into. The adoption of regulatory disclosures and transparent norms to address the asymmetry in the telecom industry needs to be established. One can note that effective competition can be incorporated through three concepts: “Allocative efficiency, technical efficiency, and dynamic efficiency.” 

To increase profits, the market power exercised by the company should not be restricted. This would help in efficiently allocating the resources and contributing to the economy invariance to the price adjustments to the consumer needs. There needs to be an initiation of equilibrium between promoting competition and checking anti-competitive practices. Being a capital intensive sector, competition needs to be incited by operators who would lower the costs through production efficiency and keep up with the latest economic models about digital trends.

There needs to be the symmetry of information and proper economic and policy legislations for competition impact assessment to easily get processed. Bringing in VNOs (virtual network operators) to buy bulk capacity from telcos for resale to end-users could be a vital point for expanding the market for existing services. Although there are high levies and restrictions for VNOs, easing those would prove to be highly beneficial for the sector to thrive.

Adopting the high-frequency spectrum by simplified access of the E band and V band spectrum will essentially support high-speed data transfer and thus promote competition between players and technologies. This would be done by de-regulation of the utilization of these spectrums. The foremost thing to be done is to lessen the regulatory burden for expanding consumer choices rather than focusing on the government’s revenue for vitalizing the sector’s growth.

By receiving direct support through cheap capital, land, support would essentially make India globally competitive.  Thus, there needs to be a mechanism for the competition authorities and sectoral regulators to be existing together. For competition to be easily facilitated, the market needs to be free from any sort of unsatisfactory product quality. No players in the market should be suppressing the entry of new products or stifling innovation. The competition needs to stay out of any malicious interferences, predatory activities, or fraud against the customers or suppliers.

We need to have a transparent regulation that would avoid excessive entry resulting in operators not achieving the economies of scale. Excessive price competition in revenue generation needs to be avoided for the inevitable result in the inadequacy for procuring investments and innovation otherwise.

It has been argued that for the sake of consumer benefits, every telecom industry should at least have five reasonably comparable rivals”, the numbers can vary slightly depending on the situation, and as of now India only has two players in the lead, with the second player close to financial risk.

Moreover, no firms have to hold a dominant position (this would mean a market share of 40% or more should not likely exist). The main purpose of policies and telecom regulations need to impact the market outcomes in ways that will move the prices, output, provide better service quality, service innovation, and healthy competition. 

As Alfred Kahn once explained, “It is sometimes tempting to try to change outcomes to something more comfortable politically than the results of full competition.”

This is important to note because telecom regulators in India have attempted to constrain many service providers. The attempts to have the competitive outcomes biased by favouring the firms induce lower efficiency and harm consumers in the end. The government needs to take strides to maintain a kind of normalcy that existed during the liberal times. 

The telecom industry needs to tread with caution, the government needs to imbibe liberal policies and promote competition. Failing to do so, the consumers will end up getting distressed when the thin line between crony capitalism and genuine relief ceases to exist. By doing so, the plans to achieve the $ 1 trillion economies for digital India seem a far-fetched idea for the time being knowing that each sector has been facing regulatory issues.

The decision lies with the policymakers and the regulators to know when intervention in the telecom sector is appropriate and how the intervention can benefit customers and their choices. 

Articles Referred:

Uppal, Mahesh. “In defense of free telecom markets. Or, how to make Indian telecom competitive while offering cheap services.” Times of India, 2020,

Kathuria, Rajat. Strengthening competition in telecom is key to realising India’s digital ambitions. The Indian Express. Accessed 2020.

Prasad, R.U.S. “The Impact of Policy and Regulatory Decisions on Telecom Growth in India.” Stanford University: Center for International Development, 2008.

Parsheera, Smriti. “Challenges of Competition and Regulation in the Telecom Sector.” Economic and political weekly, 2018.

Happy Festivus, for the rest of us

In the tradition of Festivus, Canada’s consumers have grievances to air, mainly about disappointing government officials

Festivus involves an unadorned aluminum pole (to emphasize its origins in anti-commercialism), a family dinner, feats of strength and the ever-important “Airing of Grievances.”

With a different kind of holiday this year, we are all making alternative plans for our annual celebrations. Zoom calls and socially distant visits will be the norm. That said, a pandemic is no match for the seasonal celebration of my choice, Festivus. Festivus was invented in the 1960s by the father of Dan O’Keefe, a writer for the hit 1990s comedy show Seinfeld, and became an O’Keefe family tradition. In a Seinfeld episode of December 1997, the show’s chief curmudgeon, Frank Costanza, father of George, introduced the holiday to the world. (Frank Costanza was played by Jerry Stiller, who died in May, age 92.)

Celebrated every December 23rd by those who do observe, this strange holiday usually involves an unadorned aluminum pole (to emphasize its origins in anti-commercialism), a family dinner, feats of strength and the ever-important “Airing of Grievances,” in which, after Festivus dinner, each member of the family explains how all the others have disappointed them over the past year.

A countrywide Festivus dinner is not in the cards this year for our Canadian family. But Canada’s consumers do have grievances to air, mainly about disappointing government officials. In the immortal words of Frank Costanza, “We got a lot of problems with you people, and now you’re going to hear about it.”

Federally, quite a few members of Parliament were particularly disappointing this year. Top of the list is federal Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson, for his silly and misguided plastic ban, and his strange decision to label plastic products as “Schedule 1” toxins under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. All sorts of plastic products have kept us safe throughout the pandemic and they certainly aren’t toxic when properly disposed of. Banning items like plastic cutlery and takeout containers while we’re relying on them for our curbside pickups seems like the ultimate failure to read the room.

We got a lot of problems with you people, and now you’re going to hear about it

Frank Costanza

Next up, Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault disappointed Canadian consumers when his office announced it would be implementing a Netflix tax and adding new regulations for the spirits-raising streaming service. Most of us have been camped at home for upwards of nine months, relying on the wonders of Wi-Fi to get us by. “Disappointing” isn’t nearly strong enough to describe how irritating this decision is for consumers.

Transport Minister Marc Garneau rounds out the list of Liberal MPs with whom consumers have serious grievances to air. Speaking of air, and airlines, it was a shame he took more than eight months to defend consumers against airline companies that refused to comply with the law and provide their passengers with refunds for cancelled flights.

Now, consumer disappointment isn’t a partisan affair. All parties are guilty, and in fact every single member of Parliament once again disappointed Canadian consumers when they voted unanimously to continue to support supply management in agriculture. It is little short of scandalous that our MPs — every one of them — continue to defend a system that artificially inflates prices for consumers, even driving some Canadians below the poverty line, all to provide a selective benefit for well-connected farmers. Conservative MPs are especially guilty: they’re supposedly the party of free trade and open markets.

Many of our provincial representatives were disappointing, as well. The premier of P.E.I. made the boneheaded decision to close liquor stores at the start of the pandemic, though he did have the good sense to reverse himself. Ontario Premier Doug Ford made some great consumer decisions, like legalizing alcohol delivery from restaurants. Unfortunately, his winning streak for doing right by consumers ended when, after first allowing cannabis retail deliveries, he then reversed that decision in favour of keeping a government delivery monopoly.

And, of course, we couldn’t conclude Festivus without airing our disappointment with government officials who failed to live by the rules they set for the rest of us. Our federal health minister urged Canadians not to travel but then flew home numerous times to visit family and even got photographed maskless at Pearson Airport. MPP Sam Oosterhoff made the silly mistake of joining an unmasked indoor group selfie, while Prime Minister Justin Trudeau crossed provincial boundaries to visit family at Easter after warning Canadians to avoid family gatherings. “Rules for thee, but not for me” is always a bad look if you want Canadians to take those rules seriously.

With our grievances aired, Canadian consumers wish everyone a Merry Christmas and happy holidays.

David Clement is the North American Affairs Manager with the Consumer Choice Center.

Originally published here.

In Kamala Harris, do consumers have an ally or a foe?

This week, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden revealed Sen. Kamala Harris of California as his running mate for the November general election against President Donald Trump.

Because Harris’ influence on the Biden campaign will loom large, and be important to whomever American voters choose in the fall, it’s worth looking at some of her ideas and policies and how they would have an impact on consumers.

Let’s take a dip, shall we?

HEALTHCARE

On her original presidential campaign website and throughout the Democratic primary debates, Harris was adamant about banning private healthcare insurance in favor of a Medicare For All plan. She later backed out once she was questioned by party activists.

With that in mind, considering Biden was nominated to be his party’s candidate on a platform of not seeking Medicare For All, a plan to expand the government health insurance program to seniors to the entire population, it seems there may be healthy disagreement on this point.

As I’ve written in a few outlets, the idea of a Medicare For All health insurance system would rob consumers of competition and choice, and likely lead to less quality of healthcare than we actually receive. It would mean that healthcare decisions would be placed in a complex hierarchy of bureaucratic agencies immune from market forces. That would inevitably lead to higher costs overall – no matter who foots the bill.

Harris being on the ticket doesn’t mean M4All is now on the docket for the Democratic Party, but it does mean that ideas about the government reorganizing health insurance will certainly be a part of a potential Biden Administration in the future. That’ll be something to keep an eye on.

TECH

As we covered during the debates in 2019, Sen. Harris petitioned Twitter to remove President Donald Trump from its service. Those calls weren’t central to her rhetoric on tech regulations, but they at least revealed her mindset regarding content on social media platforms, and who should be allowed to have an account. In some speeches, she’s come out as more hawkish on online censorship, which should good everyone worry.

Unlike some of her past primary opponents, she was rather soft on the question of antitrust and whether the tech giants in Silicon Valley should be broken up, which is a relief for consumers.

Most of the animus against tech companies has very little to do with concern for consumers, and much more to do with the new generation of gatekeepers using technology and innovation to provide better services. Most consumers prefer these new innovations and want them to thrive, not be broken up.

For some observers, her political career in California and proximity to tech firms mean she’ll be an asset rather than a liability on future tech regulation. The outlet Marketwatch dubbed her a “friend, not a foe, of Big Tech” and the Wall Street Journal similarly gave her praise, though with some caution.

VAPING

What isn’t a surprise to listeners of Consumer Choice Radio is that Sen. Harris is no friend of vaping and harm-reducing innovations.

She penned a letter last year accusing the FDA of being soft on vaping and for not banning all vaping products outright. That would have been disastrous for the former smokers who rely on these products.

She took it a step further by linking legal nicotine vaping products to the bootleg THC vaping devices that caused lung injuries throughout 2019, which we’ve debunked in our own work at the Consumer Choice Center.

If Harris’ worldview remains the same, vapers won’t have a friend in the potential future VP.

CANNABIS

And lastly, we come to cannabis, a favorite topic of those who dub Harris “The Cop Who Wants to be (Vice) President,” like Elizabeth Nolan Brown of Reason.

During Harris’ time as a prosecutor in California, her reputation as an anti-cannabis voice was well-known.

But as our friends at Marijuana Moment mention, she’s changed her mind over the years, from being a staunch opponent to advocate:

Though she coauthored an official voter guide argument opposing a California cannabis legalization measure as a prosecutor in 2010 and laughed in the face of a reporter who asked her about the issue in 2014, she went on to sponsor legislation to federally deschedule marijuana in 2019.

Where Vice Presidential Candidate Kamala Harris Stands On Marijuana

Since dropping her campaign to be president, she’s become more vocal, making the argument for legalizing cannabis at the federal level, though she’s

Overall, there’s a lot to digest on a potential Kamala Harris Vice Presidency. On behalf of consumers, let’s hope there’s more good than bad.

California’s political leaders are pushing rideshare companies and consumers will suffer

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San Francisco, CA – On Wednesday, the CEO of Uber said that if California’s AB5 law is carried out against rideshare firms, the company will consider pulling all of its services from the state.

Yaël Ossowski, deputy director of the Consumer Choice Center, a consumer advocacy group, calls it a “sad day” for California rideshare consumers drivers.

“Through AB5 and similar legislation, California’s politicians have been sending the signal that rideshare companies are not welcome in the Golden State. But that’s not what consumers want,” said Ossowski. “The flexible model that has so far propelled the growth of companies like Uber, Lyft, and others has been beneficial for both drivers who want independence and consumers who want convenience and competitive prices.

“If Uber and other companies shut down in California, it will prove that the state is no longer a hotbed of innovation, but rather the place where innovation goes to die. It’s unfortunate that millions of Californians will be deprived of more choice if that happens. The same has also proven true for the thousands of freelancers who now find themselves out of work.

“California politicians may have the noblest of intentions, but forcing rideshare companies to become taxi companies does nothing but help the taxi cartel maintain its monopoly and deprive people of earning a living on their own terms.

“Hopefully, voters will choose to support Prop 22 in the fall to reverse course and restore the ability of drivers and other freelancers to earn a living how they want,” said Ossowski.

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The Consumer Choice Center 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.

CONTACT:

Yaël Ossowski

Deputy Director

Consumer Choice Center

yael@consumerchoicecenter.org

Antitrust tech hearings dig for consumer harm but come up short

Armed with face masks and fresh customer complaints, members of the House Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial, and Administrative Law convened both virtually and in-person on Thursday, for the first of many hearings on competition in the tech sector.

It was a six-hour marathon of gobbledygook legal turns of phrase and static-prone troubleshooting for lawmakers.

The witnesses were CEOs from some of the four largest companies in America: Jeff Bezos of Amazon, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, Tim Cook of Apple, and Sundar Pichai of Google.

Together, these companies serve billions of global consumers for a variety of needs, and have become very rich by doing so. They employ millions of people, make up big portions of the American economy, and have been the trailblazers for innovation in virtually every free nation.

It is also true that they’ve made many mistakes, errors in judgment, and have made it easy to be bashed by all sides.

Despite that, these companies are true American success stories. And that’s not even considering the industrious biographies of their CEOs on the witness stand: an immigrant from India; the son of a teenage mother and immigrant stepfather; a college dropout; and a gay southern man shunned by the Ivy League. Each of them is a self-made millionaire or billionaire in their own right.

But in the context of this hearing, they were America’s villains.

The potshots in the hearing came from both Democrat and Republican congressmen, each using their bully pulpits to reel out various accusations and grievances on the representatives from Big Tech. But lost in all of this was the consumer.

The scene was analogous to George Orwell’s Two Minute Hate on repeat, the face of Emmanuel Goldstein replaced by a WebEx video call on full screen with smiling CEOs surrounded by the furniture in their home offices.

For Democrats, these companies have grown far too large using unscrupulous business practices, beating competitors with lower prices, better service, speed, and slick branding – allowing them to purchase or bully their competition.

For Republicans, it’s all about the bias against conservatives online, facilitated by the thorny content moderation that selectively edits which social media posts are allowed to stand.

What’s missing from this story so far? American consumers.

The justification of the hearing was to determine whether these companies have abused the trust of the public and whether consumers have been harmed as a result of their actions.

But more often than not, questions from committee members hinged on the and “business acumen” of decisions taken within the company, classifying rudimentary strategy decisions as illegal and hostile moves.

Platforms Opening to Third-Party Sellers

An example is Rep. Pramila Jayapal, of Washington State. She represents the district where Amazon was founded by Jeff Bezos. She condemned Amazon for collecting data on third-party sellers who are able to use Amazon’s website to sell products.

“You have access to data that your competitors do not have. So you might allow third-party sellers onto your platform, but if you’re continuously monitoring the data to make sure that they’re never going to get big enough to compete with you, that is the concern that the committee actually has,” said Jayapal.

Here, we’re talking about Amazon’s online platform, which sells millions of goods. Two decades ago, Amazon opened up its platform to merchants for a small fee. It was a win for sellers, who could now have easier access to customers, and it was a win for customers who now can buy more products on Amazon, regardless of who the seller was.

When Amazon sees that certain product categories are very popular, they will sometimes make their own, knowing they have the infrastructure to deliver products at high satisfaction. This brand is called Amazon Basics, encompassing everything from audio cables to coolers and batteries.

Rep. Jayapal says that by collecting data on those merchants in their store, Amazon is effectively stealing information…that sellers voluntarily give in exchange for using Amazon’s storefront.

However, the end result of the competition between Amazon’s third-party sellers and Amazon’s own products (on Amazon’s platform) is something that is better for the consumer: there is more competition, more choice, and more high-quality options to choose from. This elevates the experience for a consumer and helps save them money. This is far from harm.

The same can be said of Apple and its App Store, which came under fire from the chairman of the committee, Rep. David Cicilline. He said Apple was charging developers who use the App Store “exorbitant rents” that veered toward “highway robbery”.

Apple CEO Tim Cook was quick to retort by pointing out that the App Store is a platform for its own apps, but it also allows third-party developers to use that store for a fee. This is an entirely new market space that never existed before Apple opened it, and thus is a net gain for any developer who uses the store, and benefits consumers who click and download even more.

Business As Usual

Throughout the hearing, public officials pointed to internal documents as proof of the malfeasance of the tech firms. The documents were unearthed by the committee and contained emails and memos on mergers, acquisitions, and business practices from all four tech firms.

The Financial Times classified these documents as evidence that the companies “chased dominance and sought to protect it.”

Rep. Jared Nadler of New York chased down Mark Zuckerberg for his decision to purchase the photo-app Instagram back in 2012, calling the move “outright illegal” because he believed Facebook bought it to “essentially put them out of business.”

Today, Instagram is an incredibly popular app that has grown to half a billion users, thanks to Facebook’s investments, talent, and integration. It’s made consumers very happy, and has become an attractive product for advertisers as well. Again, no harm for the consumer.

Pro-Consumer, not Pro or Anti-business

One of the most astute lines from the hearing came from the sole representative from North Dakota.

“Usually in our quest to regulate big companies, we end up hurting small companies more,” said Rep. Kelly Armstrong. Indeed.

And add to that the eventual scenario whereby only the highly connected and vastly wealthy tech companies will be able to comply with stringent regulation from Washington. That’s not what consumers want, and it’s not what Americans want either.

If Congress aims to use antitrust power to break up or heavily regulate the enterprises built by Google, Amazon, Facebook, or Apple, it won’t be done lightly. It would likely leave a lot of damage in its wake for small and medium-sized businesses, many of whom rely on these major firms to conduct their business. In turn, consumers rely on those companies for products and services.

Each of these companies represent a case study in innovation, entrepreneurship, and giving the people what they want to create a huge network of consumers. There’s a lot to learn there.

Instead of using the law to break up companies, what if we learned from their success to empower more consumers?

Govt shouldn’t help Thomas Cook casualties: opinion

Don’t put ordinary consumers on the hook for flying back Thomas Cook holidayers

On Monday, the travel company Thomas Cook announced it would cease operations immediately after it was unable to raise enough money to pay off its debts. This has left hundreds of thousands of travelers without return flights from their holiday destinations.

As a response, several politicians in the U.K. called for government aid to Thomas Cook, and the government has been called to intervene and help out stranded travelers.

Fred Roeder, London-based Managing Director of the Consumer Choice Center, responded by stating that an intervention by the government would be the wrong direction to take.

“It is sad to see a legacy travel company such as Thomas Cook to go under,” said Roeder. “But many politicians want to show their support to stranded travelers by flying them home on taxpayers’ dime.

“While it is very unfortunate to be stranded at the end of a holiday, one should ask why taxpayers should pay for tourists who didn’t buy insolvency or travel insurance? 

“Why should those who stayed home because they either didn’t have the money or time for holidays bail out those who went for a holiday trip but didn’t want to spend the extra few pounds for insurance? This is effectively is the scenario that ordinary British consumers and taxpayers are faced with,” said Roeder.

“We cannot expect Britons who didn’t go on holiday to bail out those who did without reasonable insurance, and effectively bail out the company for its own financial mess.

“Airlines and tour operators going bankrupt happens regularly. Monarch and AirBerlin are just two recent European examples. If the government steps in every time a travel company goes bust, the wrong incentives will be set: Travelers won’t buy insurances and at the same time risk booking heavily discounted offers from troubled travel companies. 

“If this happens, then the next government-sponsored airlift will just be around the corner,” said Roeder.

This article was originally published here.


The Consumer Choice Center fights for affordable flights across the world. For more information on how you can help, read our report Hands-off my Cheap Flights.


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

Open letter to the Romanian government/parliamentarians


Dear Member of Parliament/the government,

We address this letter to you with regard to the law for the amendment of certain regulations applicable to the tobacco products sector. The amendment would introduce a tobacco display ban at points of sale, bans of sponsorship as well as 1-2-1 marketing. We believe that the rationale for these changes is not conclusive, and would like to explain the reasons for our opposition.

For consumers, the implementation of a display ban reduces the amount of information available for tobacco. Cigarettes are a legal product in Romania, yet consumers would become unable to identify differences between brands and are unexposed to new upcoming products. Added to that, a display ban creates uncertainty on the legal market, as the practice of selling cigarettes “under the counter” is equally present in the case of retailers engaging in the sales of illicit cigarettes.

A radical crackdown on tobacco as a legal product reinforces the prevalence of illicit trade. In France, where constant price increases, smoking bans, heavy regulation on harm-reducing products, and plain packaging are the norm, this phenomenon is particularly noticeable. There are some 7.6 billion contraband and counterfeit cigarettes in circulation in France, making up 13.1% of total consumption.

Some of our members have reported to us to have received counterfeit products when purchasing cigarettes in UK corner stores, where similar legislation is already in effect. A display ban might make it easier for vendors of counterfeit cigarettes to hide their illicit products from consumers and law enforcement until the moment of sale.

We would also like to draw your attention to the fact that a decrease in smoking susceptibility does not necessarily equate to a decline in smoking rates, since this decrease also correlates with a number of other factors, on both the regulatory and the educational side, as well as innovations such as harm-reducing products. 

A negative side-effect of a display ban can be that smoking is perceived as an ominous and secretive act, which encourages certain youth to pick it up. In a comparable fashion, illicit narcotic substances are also purchased in large numbers by youths, without any advertising or display. We know through evidence in countries that have legalised or decriminalised these substances (particularly in the case of cannabis) that youth consumption rates normalise as the handling of the substance reaches social acceptance.

We believe that harm-reducing products such as e-cigarettes represent an innovative way towards smoking cessation. A permissive approach to e-cigarettes would show a positive impact. According to the UK’s National Health Service (NHS), between 2011 and 2017, the number of UK smokers fell from 19.8% to 14.9%. At the same time, the number of e-cigarette users rose: almost half of these consumers use e-cigarettes as a means of quitting smoking.

Public health objectives can be attained through alternative products. This is why a simultaneous ban on e-cigarettes would be counterproductive. Display bans reduce the amount of information available to consumers, and mirrors the shadow economy, whose activities will be eased. Illicit tobacco trade is already a major reason for concern in Europe. Legislative acts such as these, so we fear, would worsen the situation.

We hope that our objections and concerns finds you well, and that we can work together towards achieving public health objectives in a manner that is reconcilable with consumer choice.


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.

What Artificial Intelligence Will Do For Consumers

Many speak of Artificial Intelligence (AI) as being a force of the future – unaware that these intelligent beings are already manifesting themselves in their daily lives. These human-like machines are undoubtedly here to stay, and they will continue to grow, become more intelligent and have a greater influence in our day-to-day lives. However, Artificial […]

Sens. Markey, Blumenthal receive Consumer Choice Center BAN Award for trying to make flying more expensive

U.S. Senators Edward Markey (D-Mass.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) receive the September 2018 BAN Award for proposing to make flying more expensive by re-regulating the airline industry and forbidding certain fees for better service and options on flights. The U.S. Senate’s version of the FAA reauthorization bill includes a provision authored by U.S. Senators Markey and Blumenthal […]

City of Hamburg receives BAN Award for Diesel bans

The City of Hamburg, Germany receives the May 2018 BAN Award for being the first city banning certain Diesel cars from some of its main streets. The Consumer Choice Center’s Managing Director Fred Roeder explains that only a few municipal governments have managed to discriminate that many consumers at once: “Over 200,000 local Diesel drivers […]

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