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Got Raw Milk? Moo-ving Beyond the Ban

In the digital age, the century-old tussle between raw and pasteurized milk has found a fiery new battleground on social platforms like Instagram and TikTok.

Flight Canceled or Delayed: Know Your Air Passenger Rights

Traveling by air can be both exciting and stressful, and one thing you should always be aware of as a passenger is your rights. These rights can vary significantly depending on where you’re flying from or to. In this blog post, we’ll explore air passenger rights in Brazil, Europe, and the United States to help you better understand what to expect in different situations.

Brazilian Air Passenger Rights

In Brazil, the National Civil Aviation Agency (ANAC) is the regulatory authority that oversees all matters related to flights. When it comes to air passenger rights, the key legislation you should be familiar with is ANAC Resolution No. 400.

ANAC Resolution No. 400 clearly outlines the responsibilities of airlines when flight-related issues occur. It also covers various passenger rights, specifying the types of assistance that airlines are obligated to provide in each situation.

When Does Consumer Protection Apply in Brazil?

  • Domestic flights within Brazil
  • International flights departing from a Brazilian airport
  • International flights arriving at a Brazilian airport
  • Connecting flights at a Brazilian airport
  • Any airline ticket issued in Brazil (even if the flight is operated abroad)

Your Rights in Brazil

  1. Information: In the event of a flight delay at the airport, the airline must promptly inform you of the cause of the delay and the new estimated departure time. They should also provide updates every 30 minutes.
  2. Right to Assistance: Whenever flights are delayed or canceled, the airline must provide material assistance to passengers. The type of assistance depends on the length of the delay after your original departure time:
    • From 1 hour: communication (internet, phone)
    • From 2 hours: food (voucher, meal, snack)
    • From 4 hours: accommodation in case of an overnight stay at the airport and round-trip transportation. If you are in your hometown, the airline may only offer transportation to your residence and back to the airport.
  3. Right to Refund or Re-accommodation: According to ANAC rules for flight cancellations or delays exceeding 4 hours, airlines must offer the following options to passengers:
    • Full ticket refund, including the airport tax OR
    • Re-accommodation on another flight operated by the same airline OR
    • Re-accommodation on a flight operated by another airline if there is no availability with the airline you purchased the ticket from OR
    • Rescheduling the flight for a new date and time at no cost
  4. Rights in Overbooking Situations: If your flight is overbooked, the airline will ask passengers to volunteer to give up their seats. Volunteering passengers may receive compensation, but the amount can be negotiated individually between the passenger and the airline. If no one volunteers, the airline can deny boarding to some passengers.
    • Domestic flights: R$1,300
    • International flights: R$2,600


European Air Passenger Rights

In the European Union (EU) and associated territories like the UK, Iceland, Norway, and Switzerland, air passenger rights are governed by Regulation (EC) No. 261. This comprehensive legislation, adopted in 2004, applies to all passengers departing from or arriving at airports within these areas.

Key Rights in Europe

Right to Information: Airlines must provide information to passengers at check-in counters in all airports where they operate.

Right to Assistance: Passengers have the right to free material assistance from the airline in the event of flight disruptions. While awaiting a solution, the airline should provide:

  • Drinks and meals
  • Two communications (phone, fax, or email)
  • Accommodation if the alternative flight is not on the same day
  • Transportation to and from the airport and the accommodation location

If the airline does not offer this assistance, keep all receipts for additional expenses, as you may be eligible for reimbursement.

Compensation:

Compensation for delayed flights: Any delay exceeding three hours entitles passengers to compensation. The amount depends on the delay time and flight distance.

  • Less than 3 hours: No compensation
  • 3 to 4 hours: €250 to €400 depending on the flight distance
  • Over 4 hours: €250 to €600 depending on the flight distance
  • Never reached the destination: €250 to €600 depending on the flight distance

Compensation for canceled flights: If the airline notifies you of a flight cancellation less than 14 days before the scheduled departure, you may be entitled to compensation based on the distance and waiting time.

The statute of limitations for claiming compensation varies from 1 to 10 years, depending on the European country, so be sure to check your specific case.



U.S. Air Passenger Rights

Air travelers have certain rights in the United States, but they differ from those in Brazil and Europe. While U.S. airlines are required to compensate passengers for overbooking situations, there are no mandatory regulations for passengers affected by long delays or cancellations.

Overbooking Compensation in the U.S.: If you’re denied boarding due to overbooking in the U.S., you could be entitled to up to $1,350 in compensation.

Baggage Issues in U.S. Domestic Flights: Passengers on U.S. domestic flights have clear rights when it comes to damaged, delayed, or lost baggage. You can learn more about your rights regarding delayed baggage on our website.



Tips for Dealing with Air Travel Issues Worldwide

No matter where you’re flying, here are some valuable tips for dealing with air travel disruptions:

  • Don’t wait for the airline to come to you; seek assistance proactively.
  • Take immediate action to resolve the issue and then seek reimbursement.
  • Avoid checking baggage whenever possible, as canceled flights usually hold your checked luggage until a new flight is allocated to you.
  • File a complaint immediately, preferably in writing, and attach all documentation. Take photos of airport boards and keep any evidence that can help support your case. Record conversations with airline staff if necessary.
  • Consider purchasing travel insurance, especially when traveling to non-EU countries, as almost all of them offer reimbursement or composition in case of delayed and canceled flights.
  • Review the coverage and conditions of your credit card’s travel insurance.

Remember, being aware of your air passenger rights can make your travel experience smoother and help you get compensation when things go wrong. Safe travels!

The Digital Economy Minister Crusading to Legalize Vaping in Thailand

By Yaël Ossowski

Thailand’s Minister of Digital Economy and Society Chaiwut Thanakamanusorn

In our work promoting smart policies on harm reduction around the world, the Consumer Choice Center is often engaged in battles to stave off vaping flavor bans or tax hikes that will harm consumers and smokers looking to quit.

And while those efforts are vital to individuals moving away from tobacco in liberal democracies, there are countries outside that sphere that still maintain outright bans or harsh restrictions on vaping and harm-reducing technologies – depriving millions of a less harmful method of consuming nicotine.

That’s why political leaders like Chaiwut Thanakamanusorn, Thailand’s Minister of Digital Economy and Society, are worth highlighting.

Recently, Minister Thanakamanusorn has come out in favor of legalizing vaping in order to address the high number of smokers in Thai society. He wants to join the 67 countries around the world that have legalized vaping as a means of giving smokers an option to quit.

Speaking to the Bangkok Post, he’s become convinced of this position because he believes “vaping could be a safer choice for those struggling to quit smoking, adding there were at least 10 million smokers in the country.”

According to Public Health England, vaping products are at least 95% less harmful than combusted tobacco, and they have become integral in reducing smoking rates in developed countries like New Zealand, the UK, the United States, and Canada.

But vaping has yet to achieve significant acceptance or legality in many countries in Asia.

At present, total smoking prevalence among the Thai population hovers around 19%, and approximately 37% of all men.

As such, Thailand has long been a target of anti-smoking activists and health groups over the years to crack down on tobacco use. Both domestic and international groups have spent millions to reach the goal of achieving a total 30% relative drop in tobacco use.

One research organization at Thammasat University in Bangkok has been given grants as part of a $20 million global project by Michael Bloomberg’s charity Bloomberg Philanthropies to “monitor” tobacco regulations and push for bans on alternative technologies like vaping.

This follows Michael Bloomberg’s efforts at depriving adoption of harm-reducing nicotine products in developing countries like the Philippines, India, and others, as we have explored below:

Those funds, as well dispersed amounts from the UN’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, have been granted as a condition of certain regulations.

Thailand became the first Asian country to adopt “plain packaging” restrictions on cigarettes in 2019, and passed a harsh tobacco control measure that outright banned vaping products, restricted tobacco advertisements, and outlawed online sales.

Despite the millions spent, Minister Thanakamanusorn points out that it isn’t as effective as the activists claim, and hence he wants to look at vaping as a sustainable market alternative.

The effort to legalize vaping, however, will come with significant opposition. Both domestic doctor groups and the FCTC, as well as Bloomberg’s foundation, have put pressure on the government to enforce a continued ban on vaping products.

They are joined in their efforts by Thailand’s own state tobacco monopoly, Tobacco Authority of Thailand, which makes an annual revenue of 2 billion USD and would see a significant setback in state revenues if smokers were to switch to vaping products.

Considering the odds stacked against Chaiwut Thanakamanusorn’s vision for legalizing vaping in Thailand, it is clear that more voices will need to be heard in the debate.

Overall, we hope for a future that embraces the science of harm reduction and will allow the citizens of Thailand to use the same products that have helped millions of smokers quit in developed countries – if only the government lets them.

Yaël Ossowski (@YaelOss) is deputy director of the Consumer Choice Center.

The global organizations and populists who aim to seize COVID vaccine tech and IP

When Donald Trump claimed in September 2020 that every American would have access to vaccines by April 2021, his comments received scorn. The Washington Post said his claims were “without evidence,” CNN quoted health experts who said it was impossible, and The New York Times claimed it would take another decade.

Now, a year into this pandemic, nearly half of the eligible population has received at least one vaccine dose in the U.S., and distribution has been opened to every American adult.

Operation Warp Speed, which invested tax dollars and helped reduce bureaucracy across the board, has contributed to what has truly been a miraculous effort by vaccine firms.

While Trump’s proclamations eventually become true and the question of vaccine ability has been settled, there is now pressure on the Biden administration to turn over domestic vaccine supply to countries with skyrocketing cases.

On Sunday, the U.S. declared it will send additional medical supplies to India, currently experiencing the largest global spike in cases.

But at international bodies, countries and activist groups are petitioning for far more: they want to force biotech companies to waive intellectual property rights on vaccines and COVID-related medical technology.

Along with nearly 100 other countries, India and South Africa are the architects of a motion at the World Trade Organization called a TRIPS Waiver (Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights).

If the waiver is triggered, it would ostensibly nullify IP protections on COVID vaccines, allowing other countries to copy the formulas developed by private vaccine firms to inoculate their populations and play into the hands of future governments more hostile to private innovation.

This week, U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai met with the heads of the various vaccine makers to discuss the proposal, but it is uncertain if the Biden administration will support the measure at the WTO.

While many companies have voluntarily pledged to sell them at cost or even offered to share information with other firms, this measure would have more far-reaching implications.

This coalition seeking the TRIPS waiver includes Doctors Without Borders, Human Rights Watch, and World Health Organization Secretary-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who first backed this effort in 2020 before any coronavirus vaccine was approved.

They claim that because COVID represents such a global threat and because western governments have poured billions in securing and helping produce vaccines, low and middle-income countries should be relieved of the burden of purchasing them.

Considering the specialized knowledge needed to develop these vaccines and the cold storage infrastructure required to distribute them, it seems implausible that any of this could be achieved outside the traditional procurement contracts we’ve seen in the European Union and the U.S.

That said, rather than celebrating the momentous innovation that has led to nearly a dozen globally-approved vaccines to fight a deadly pandemic in record time, these groups are trumpeting a populist message that pits so-called “rich” countries against poor ones.

Intellectual property rights are protections that help foster innovation and provide legal certainty to innovators so that they can profit from and fund their efforts. A weakening of IP rules would actively hurt the most vulnerable who depend on innovative medicines and vaccines.

If the cost of researching and producing a COVID vaccine is truly $1 billion as is claimed, with no guarantee of success, there are relatively few biotechnology or pharmaceutical companies that can stomach that cost.

BioNTech, the German company headed by the husband-wife team of Uğur Şahin and Özlem Türeci that partnered with Pfizer for trials and distribution of their mRNA vaccine, was originally founded to use mRNA to cure cancer.

Before the pandemic, they took on massive debt and scrambled to fund their research. Once the pandemic began, they pivoted their operations and produced one of the first mRNA COVID vaccines, which hundreds of millions of people have received.

With billions in sales to governments and millions in direct private investment, we can expect the now-flourishing BioNTech to be at the forefront of mRNA cancer research, which could give us a cure. The same is true of the many orphan and rare diseases that do not otherwise receive major funding.

Would this have been possible without intellectual property protections?

Moderna, for its part, has stated it will not enforce the IP rights on its mRNA vaccine and will hand over any research to those who can scale up production. The developers of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine have pledged to sell it at cost until the pandemic is over.

While this should smash the narrative presented by the populists and international organizations who wish to obliterate IP rights, instead they have doubled down, stating that these companies should hand over all research and development to countries that need them.

If we want to be able to confront and end this pandemic, we will continue to need innovation from both the vaccine makers and producers who make this possible. Granting a one-time waiver will create a precedent of nullifying IP rights for a host of other medicines, which would greatly endanger future innovation and millions of potential patients.

Especially in the face of morphing COVID variants, we need all incentives on the table to protect us against the next phase of the virus. 

Rather than seeking to tear them down those who have performed the miracle of quick, cheap, and effective vaccines, we should continue supporting their innovations by defending their intellectual property rights.

Yaël Ossowski (@YaelOss) is deputy director of the Consumer Choice Center, a global consumer advocacy group.

Can you sue the ski hut where you contracted coronavirus?

European nations may be opening up their economies throughout the month of May, but that grand opening is likely to be dogged by the wave of COVID-19-related lawsuits.

We learned over the weekend that over 5,000 international tourists to the ski town of Ischgl, Austria are in the process of filing a lawsuit against the town and public officials. There are also being considered against ski resort owners in the area.

The lawsuit is being prepared by the Austrian Consumer Protection Association, which claims health authorities and the bar owners were “negligent” in not shutting down ski huts and restaurants earlier. They launched a website asking potential plaintiffs to share their information in order to join a future class-action lawsuit.

Often described as the “Ibiza of the Alps,” Ischgl made international headlines as an epicenter of the coronavirus crisis. At one particular venue, Kitzloch, a German bartender reportedly tested positive for coronavirus on March 7th. The bar closed its doors two days later. The town went into lockdown on March 13th. Tyrolean Governor Günther Platter then issued a province-wide quarantine on March 18th.

By the end of March, nearly 1,000 cases across Europe could be traced back to the resort town, and as many of 1,500 to the region itself.

The complaint states that the delay from the first known case until the ski town was ordered into lockdown was “negligible” and that authorities should have “known of a threat of mass infection”. Some have even blamed “greed” and “toxic business” as the reason local officials and business owners waited before shuttering doors. But as covered above, ski lodges and restaurants shut before provincial and national lockdowns ordered them to.

The first death in Austria from the coronavirus wasn’t until March 12, after which the town of Ischgl went into complete lockdown. The national lockdown went into effect four days later.

Is this enough to make a case against ski huts and villages where tourists contracted coronavirus?

As my colleague Linda Kavuka has pointed out, the current pandemic is a living and breathing example of Force Majeure, an Act of God that indemnifies certain parties in lawsuits and breaches of contract because it is simply “beyond the control” of any person or organization.

That said, there are legitimate questions to be asked: should ski towns have shuttered their doors and closed down bars and restaurants earlier? Likely. But we simply didn’t have the same information then as we do now.

And considering the very disturbing revelations about obfuscation of information by both the Chinese Communist Party and the World Health Organization at the outset of this crisis, it’s hard to place blame solely at the feet of local mayors and ski hut owners in the Alps.

(That’s why the U.S. states of Mississippi and Missouri have filed lawsuits against China.)

Of course, the fact that any skier or holiday goer would contract the coronavirus at a place where they were supposed to be enjoying themselves is a tragedy. Many people unknowingly spread the virus, were hospitalized themselves and died as a result. No one can excuse that loss of life and the grief that ensues.

But what we must hold uphold, in this situation and many more to come, is the facts and cases we allow to enter our legal system and our courts.

Classifying or assigning claims of negligence in the pandemic could likely mean thousands of unwitting public officials, business owners, and individuals will be held liable for what they didn’t know at the time. That would be a dangerous precedent.

We’ve often covered the incredibly litigious culture in the United States’ tort law system and articulated to reasons to reform it. Now, it seems, we’ll have to spread that same message throughout the European continent.

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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