American Consumers Reject Government Intervention in Tech:  “Let Us Pick Internet Platform Winners and Losers,” New NetChoice Research Finds

AMERICAN CONSUMERS REJECT GOVERNMENT INTERVENTION IN TECH:  “LET US PICK INTERNET PLATFORM WINNERS AND LOSERS,” NEW NETCHOICE RESEARCH FINDS

Just 5% Say Regulators Should Focus Anti-Competitive Enforcement on Tech

Americans Prefer Interest-Based Ads Over Paying for Content By a 3-1 Margin

 

SEPTEMBER 12, 2018, Washington, DC – State and federal legislators on both sides of the aisle have called for more regulation of the technology industry. However, new research from NetChoice shows that Americans want a light regulatory touch for tech companies, believing that consumer spending and online surfing habits should be the ultimate means of ensuring competition and consumer choice.

According to a survey* of more than 1,200 U.S. consumers conducted by Zogby Analytics, only 5% said that regulators should focus anti-competitive enforcement on the tech industry. Only 10% think the government should prevent successful online businesses from acquiring other companies.

“There is a disconnect between American consumers and the anti-tech community,” said Steve DelBianco, president of NetChoice. “Americans prefer to make their own decisions rather than having a heavy-handed government determine what is ‘best’ for them.” Read more

President Trump’s Heat on Tech Industry Not in Sync with Americans and His Base

President Trump’s Heat on Tech Industry Not in Sync with Americans and His Base

New Polling Shows by a 7-to-1 margin Republicans believe online regulation would harm consumer freedom and choice on the internet

Washington, D.C., August 29, 2018 – President Trump’s attack on America’s most popular online search provider Google along with regulatory threats from White House Economic Advisor Larry Kudlow are not supported by most Americans, according to new research from NetChoice.

NetChoice found that by a 7-to-1 margin, Republicans agree, rather than disagree, with the idea that online regulation would harm consumer freedom and choice on the internet.

“When the Administration says they are “taking a look” at regulating Google Search results, they really mean that they plan on regulating political speech,” said Steve DelBianco, president of NetChoice.

“Forcing Google to demote critical news about President Trump blatantly conflicts with the first amendment and endangers all forms of online expression. Businesses must be allowed to do what is best for their users.

The basic tenets of capitalism need to hold true on the Internet. Consumers pick winners and losers, not bureaucrats.”

To see NetChoice’s view on conservative concerns about social media content moderation, see here and here.

About the Polling

NetChoice commissioned research firm Zogby Analytics to conduct an interactive survey of more than 1,200 U.S. consumers from Aug. 6-8. The poll has a margin of error of +/- 2.8%. The entire survey will be publicly available in September.

In Comments on FTC Workshops NetChoice Warns about Following Anti-tech Rhetoric

Today, NetChoice filed responses to the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) request for comments for upcoming workshops.  NetChoice responded on several topics, such as “The Consumer Welfare Implications Associated with The Use of Algorithmic Decision Tools, Artificial Intelligence, and Predictive Analytics” and “Evaluating the Competitive Effects of Corporate Acquisitions and Mergers”. The full list of responses are supplied at the bottom of this statement.

“Contrary to the claims of anti-tech advocates, self-regulation is working. Consumers today have access to a smorgasbord of products, services, and information thanks to the internet,” said Steve DelBianco, president of NetChoice. “There is no dearth of competition. The market has never been more competitive.” Read more

NetChoice Releases Policy Note on Car Rental Handouts

Last week, alongside the publishing of this article on The Drive, NetChoice released a new policy note, examining the large handouts big rental car companies receive.

The note shows that car rental companies receive a national yearly total of over $3 billion in tax breaks.

The note also provides data showing how much rental car companies received in sales tax exemptions in 2016.

Unlike car rental companies, people who use apps like Turo to lease out their cars do not enjoy these tax breaks

Ignoring this multi-billion dollar tax break, car rental companies claim that peer-to-peer car sharing platforms like Turo are the same as car rental companies.  Big car rental companies are using “level playing field” rhetoric to justify calls for stiff regulations onto peer-to-peer car platforms designed to skew in favor of big rental.

Read the full policy note here, and take a look at press coverage on its findings by Reason Magazine and The Drive.

NetChoice to Congress: Protect Interstate Commerce

Without the physical presence rule, American businesses and consumers are put at risk by state-based internet taxes

Washington, D.C., July 23, 2018 – Tomorrow, the House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing entitled “Examining the Wayfair decision and its Ramifications for Consumers and Small Businesses”. The hearing is the first step for Congress to prevent damage being done by last month’s Supreme Court decision in South Dakota v. Wayfair.

“Because of Wayfair, businesses have no clear test to determine whether they are obligated to pay a foreign state’s sales tax,” said Steve DelBianco, president of NetChoice. “Sellers are left with a dilemma to either collect tax that they may not owe at significant expense, or risk later being held responsible for uncollected taxes plus interest and penalties.”

“The Commerce Clause is just as necessary now as when the constitution was written, and Congress must protect interstate commerce in the digital age,” continued DelBianco. “The time to act is now, and the longer Congress leaves the state tax playpen unsupervised, the worse the mess will be for American small businesses and consumers.”

“The court misunderstood the true audit liability faced by America’s small businesses and there’s no guarantee that tax software services will be paid for by the states.”

NetChoice has supplied a written statement for the record available here.

New York City Passes Short-Term Rental Bill, Outsourcing Legal Enforcement Burden to Internet Platforms Like Airbnb, Homeaway & VRBO

Rules Will Imperil Short-Term Renters from Springfield Gardens to Hell’s Kitchen

NEW YORK, July 18, 2018 – The future of short-term rentals (STRs) throughout New York City was put at risk today by New York City Council’s passing of Int. 9081 placing legal enforcement responsibilities on Internet home sharing platforms like Airbnb, HomeAway and VRBO.

 

The proposal would:

  • place a minimum fine of $1,500 on STR platforms every time a property owner makes inaccurate claims on a short-term rental post regardless of intention;
  • require platforms to obtain, manage and certify that every property owner is abiding by local jurisdiction or homeowners association rules;
  • require short-term rental platforms to share all private transaction data, such as bank account numbers, with government agencies.

 

“New York City risks the sensitive financial data of its residents and tourists by forcing them to hand over bank account numbers to government agencies,” said Carl Szabo, vice president and general counsel at NetChoice.

“The city’s latest anti-tech action threatens New Yorkers’ privacy and financial security, forcing many to choose between protecting their financial information and paying their mortgage.”

“New York is once again going after short-term rentals by mandating hefty requirements on platforms, many of which could be illegal,” continued Szabo. “The City Council’s proposed rules would burden New Yorkers who use STR platforms to help make ends meet.”

 

About NetChoice

NetChoice is a trade association of eCommerce and online businesses that share the goal of promoting convenience, choice, and commerce on the net.

US Supreme Court Deals Body Blow To Consumers and Small Online Businesses, NetChoice Says

Ruling in Favor of South Dakota Will Cause Chaos Nationally If Congress Does Not Act

WASHINGTON, DC, June 21, 2018 – The U.S. Supreme Court today upended decades of precedent to deliver a ruling in favor of South Dakota that will burden small catalog and web retailers and harm the consumers who rely on them.  The decision in South Dakota v. Wayfair will unleash a summer of chaos as small businesses struggle to comply with the conflicting tax rules of more than 12,000 local tax jurisdictions across 46 states.

“Small web businesses will be hardest hit,” said Chris Cox, NetChoice outside counsel, “particularly those with only a single location, because they can’t afford the overhead to comply with thousands of different tax rules across the country.  Consumers will quickly feel the negative effects as those businesses dry up or are forced into the arms of Internet giants.”

Cox, a former Congressman who authored the Internet Tax Freedom Act, believes the Court disregarded the clear intent of Congress in that law. “The last hope for consumers and small online business owners is for Congress to take action.  It should be Congress, not the courts, that sets the rules for interstate sales tax collection,” he added.

“While a fraction of online commerce was free of sales tax before this ruling, the Supreme Court has now created an even greater imbalance by placing far greater burdens on Internet shopping compared to its “offline” counterparts,” said Steve DelBianco, President and CEO of NetChoice. “A brick-and-mortar business won’t have to comply with the differing rules of over 12,000 tax jurisdictions, or integrate costly and complex tax software into its operations.  But small web businesses will, eating away at their already razor-thin profit margins.  When these businesses disappear, consumers will be the biggest losers.”

“The court has legislated from the bench,” continued DelBianco, “but it lacks the tools Congress has to protect interstate commerce and reduce regulatory complexity.  Congress should immediately address this situation by delivering a law that harmonizes the interests of consumers, small businesses, and state governments.”

9th Circuit Decision Scores a Big Win For Ridesharing Drivers and Riders of Seattle

Washington D.C. – NetChoice applauds today’s 9th Circuit decision in US Chamber v City of Seattle.  The Court struck down Seattle’s 2015 ordinance as it violated antitrust laws.  Had it been allowed to stand, Seattle’s Ordinance would have enabled collusion by ridesharing drivers and empowered them to form cartels and collectively bargain against ridesharing platforms.

“This is a victory for riders and drivers in Seattle’s ridesharing industry,” said Steve DelBianco, President of NetChoice. “The peer-to-peer economy relies on flexibility without which many drivers would have fewer options to make ends meet.”

“Without this decision, Seattle riders would expect higher prices and drivers could lose flexibility in choosing when and for whom they work.  We’re happy the 9th Circuit has rejected this ordinance and preserved the positive impact of ridesharing in Seattle.”

Austin Transportation Department Shouldn’t Pick Winners and Losers for Bike Sharing Services

Austin consumers will face fewer and more expensive bike-sharing options if a new permit application process proposed by the Austin Transportation Department (ATD) goes into effect.

At the heart of the issue is the Austin city government’s apparent preference for one type of bike sharing model – bikes that lock into fixed docks wherever the city decides to put them.  These docked bikes are only available where docks are located and must be returned to a docking station.

Competition and choice has arrived in Austin, in the form of dockless bike providers that allow riders to pick-up and drop-off their bikes where they please. No docking is required.   Dockless bikes are a convenient alternative to more expensive and hard-to-find docked bikes, and bring bike-sharing to many neighborhoods that aren’t served by docking platforms.

The proposed ATD rules make it nearly impossible for dockless bike providers to run a viable service for city residents.  While that might help the legacy docked bike system, it’s no help to Austin residents in neighborhoods that don’t have a docking station.  Proposed limitations on dockless bikes include:

  • All bikes must be equipped with expensive “haptic technology” to ensure the user has parked the bike in a designated geo-fenced area or must lock to some form of infrastructure.
  • No bike parking allowed on Austin city blocks designated as a “Landscape” or “No Furniture” zone.
  • Bike providers must find a way for customers to use their App – even for customers who don’t have a smartphone.

“If Austin had the choice back when they started their docked bike-sharing system, the city would surely have chosen dockless over docked bikes,” said Steve DelBianco, President of NetChoice.  “The ATD proposal flies in the face of good city planning and customer service. Dockless systems are far less expensive to implement, and serve residents in neighborhoods that are never going to get a docking platform.”

“City managers should focus on offering Austin citizens better choices and convenience, but here Austin regulators are making rules to protect their prior investments in inferior bike sharing systems.”