#AceBreakingNews – In a joint press release, China’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism and the State Administration of Radio and Television has said that qualifications will be required for posting online content that requires a “higher professional level” such as medicine or law.
Citizens who want to comment online about health or legal matters, for example, will need to have an appropriate qualification and will even be required to submit their qualifications to the streaming platform they use. The platform should then review the qualifications.
“The 18-point guideline, published by the National Radio and Television Administration and the Ministry of Culture and Tourism on Wednesday, requires influencers to have relevant qualifications to discuss some topics, such as law, finance, medicine and education, although authorities did not specify the qualifications needed.”
The release also contained other rules for live streamers. They are not allowed to post content that distorts or weakens the CCP, like using deep fake technology on state and party leaders.
Influencers are also prohibited from showing an extravagant lifestyle, excessive food wastage, sexually provocative or suggestive content, and a lot of luxury goods.
“Justin Li Jiaqi, known as China’s “lipstick king” for once selling 15,000 tubes of lipstick in just five minutes, abruptly ended a live-streaming session on June 3, after he reportedly displayed a tank-shaped ice cream. The tank image is a frequent target of Chinese censors due to its association with the deadly Tiananmen Square crackdown by China’s military against pro-democracy protesters in Beijing on June 4, 1989.
Huang Wei, widely known as Viya, was fined a record 1.3 billion yuan(US$210 million) for tax evasion late last year, and has since disappeared from public view. This came after Zhu Chenhui and Lin Shanshan, two top influencers who were each fined tens of millions of yuan in November for tax evasion, also saw their social media accounts and e-commerce shops vanish.”
Over the past two years, China has cracked down on the technology sector, including video games, celebrity culture, and live streaming. Just last month, the government banned people under the age of 16 from watching live-streamed content past 10 pm and supporting influencers by buying virtual gifts from them. Last year, children were also banned from playing video games for more than three hours a day.
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#AceNewsDesk – Development of new upfront rules that force dominant digital platforms to treat their users fairly is the important next step in reforming Australia’s consumer protection laws, ACCC Chair Rod Sims said today: The full speech is available at: Continuing the ACL journey
Delivering the 2022 Ruby Hutchison Memorial Lecture, Mr Sims applauded the progress on stronger consumer laws in Australia, starting with the introduction of the Australian Consumer Law in 2011, which included penalties for breaches, and then a significant hike in penalties in 2018.
“When I arrived at the ACCC in 2011 a $1 million penalty against a large company was celebrated,” Mr Sims said.
“I remember the positive reaction to Optus having to pay a penalty of $3.6 million for a breach of the ACL in 2013. Then in 2018, it seemed a milestone that Ford, Apple and Telstra faced penalties in the $9 million to $10 million range. In 2021 we saw Telstra pay a $50 million penalty, Volkswagen pay $125 million and AIPE, a vocational training company, hit with a $153 million penalty.”
“High penalties are essential for effective deterrence. The ACCC does not have the resources to tackle most consumer law breaches, so our approach is to take specific cases, and allow high penalties to send a message to all other companies,” Mr Sims said.
Mr Sims said his proudest achievement was the alignment of consumer and competition law penalties in 2018. But glaring deficiencies in consumer laws remained, including the lack of a law against unfair practices and the lack of a general safety provision.
“Can you imagine a situation where someone was caught stealing and the result of the police inquiries was that they simply had to give the money back? No penalty for the actual stealing to deter others. But we have this in our product safety laws,” Mr Sims said.
“There is no law against selling unsafe good; you are not breaching any act by doing so. You simply have to recall the goods when they are seen to be unsafe.”
The next phase of consumer law reforms to be debated should relate to digital platforms with market power, Mr Sims said.
“Digital platforms have business models that seek to exploit all the data they have on you. We need laws to prevent the misuse of this data, either by preventing so called ‘dark patterns’ that get you to act against your best interests, or requiring steps to prevent scams, or allowing appropriate dispute resolution,” Mr Sims said.
Today’s 2022 Ruby Hutchinson Memorial Lecture was Mr Sims’ final speech as ACCC Chair.
Mr Sims said it remained important for regulators to be vocal advocates for the rights of consumers and to identify opportunities for law reforms when needed.
“There are some who believe that regulators should only enforce the law as it is and not suggest publicly and need for law change. What a loss to the public debate this suggests,” Mr Sims said.
The Ruby Hutchison Memorial Lecture is an annual speech in honour of the founder of the Australian Consumers Association, now known as CHOICE. The lecture is jointly hosted by CHOICE and the ACCC on World Consumer Day.
#AceNewsReport – Feb.03: The ACCC is continuing to receive a high number of consumer reports about pricing and selling practices relating to rapid antigen tests in Australia and is investigating several potential Australian Consumer Law breaches.
#AceDailyNews ACCC Consumer Law Update Report: On action being taken on rapid antigen test pricing they have received almost 3,900 reports from consumers about rapid antigen tests between 25 December 2021 and 26 January 2022, averaging about 121 reports per day. Pharmacies have been the most-complained about sector, attracting 1,309 complaints, or almost 34 per cent of reports, outstripping petrol stations (781 complaints, 20 per cent of reports) and convenience stores, tobacconists and supermarkets (764 complaints, almost 20 per cent).
Since mid-January, however, pharmacy complaints were less than 25 per cent of total reports, as many more complaints were received from smaller stores which would not usually sell such items.
More than 50 test suppliers, major retailers and pharmacy chains have now been asked by the ACCC to explain their costs, current pricing, and stock availability, and warned that they must be able to substantiate any claims made to consumers about the reasons for higher prices.
Importantly, the ACCC has also made further referrals to both the Australian Federal Police and the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) following tip-offs by consumers about alleged illegal re-selling of rapid antigen tests and alleged package splitting and sale of tests not approved for home use in Australia.
In addition, an investigation has commenced into claims by some suppliers that government entities may have diverted or sought priority supply of rapid antigen tests.
“Community concerns about sales practices for rapid antigen tests remain very high, for good reason. We thank the consumers who have taken the time to pass on to us crucial information about what is happening in this market. These reports, and the public scrutiny, are helping to keep prices at lower levels than otherwise,” ACCC Chair Rod Sims said.
“Businesses now know we will be in touch very quickly if they choose to impose unjustifiably high mark-ups on rapid antigen tests, or make misleading statements to consumers. In view of the public interest in this issue, we will continue to name business chains whose stores are reported to have engaged in this conduct, and are working very closely with our fellow law enforcement agencies in this area, particularly in relation to individual stores.”
ACCC Pricing Analysis:
Almost 95 per cent of consumer reports received by the ACCC since 25 December 2021 were about the price of rapid antigen tests. Many of these reports also raised other concerns about the sale of the tests, including package splitting, which is illegal and where the TGA has jurisdiction.
Analysis of reports to the ACCC indicates many consumers are still paying between $20-30 per test (though it’s worth noting that consumers are unlikely to report more reasonable prices to the ACCC). Based on these reports to the ACCC the average price of a test appears to have remained broadly steady since 12 January at about $24.
Updated information from intermediate suppliers, manufacturers and importers indicates that wholesale prices remain between $3.82 and $11.42 per test, depending on the type of test. The ACCC’s data on wholesale prices is based on information requests issued by the ACCC covering the period between 29 December 2021 and 14 January 2022. There have been some recent reports of higher wholesale prices which we are seeking to verify.
“While $20 retail prices remain lower than the more extreme reports received by the ACCC, this is still an unusually high mark-up that in our view is very difficult to justify,” Mr Sims said.
The average price of tests in pharmacies based on consumer tip-offs has recently been closer to $21. Most pharmacies appear to be charging between $15 and $25, however there are outliers with much higher prices.
“We are looking at reports of single tests being sold for $30 or more from certain stores. For example, we have received many reports of high prices at a number of individual IGA Supermarkets and BP-branded petrol stations (133 and 72 complaints respectively, to 26 January 2022). However, I want to emphasise these complaints are limited to a small number of individual stores in these chains and that the majority of stores in those chains have not been the subject of complaints to us. We have contacted those chains, and will be engaging with the stores named in complaints to ask them to explain their prices so we can work out what’s going on,” Mr Sims said.
Importantly, the ACCC has received significantly fewer complaints about excessive pricing involving certain businesses after previously raising concerns, including individual retailers operating under the King of the Pack and Metro Petroleum brands.
Investigation into alleged diversion of supplies by government bodies
The ACCC is investigating representations by a number of suppliers that government entities may have diverted or sought priority supply of rapid antigen tests from suppliers who had existing contracts in place.
Some suppliers have made these claims in emails or on their websites. The Federal Government has given clear and repeated advice that it has not commandeered or asked for priority supply.
“ACCC investigators are speaking with the suppliers involved and will look to address any misrepresentations identified,” Mr Sims said.
“The ACCC takes this opportunity to remind suppliers about the importance of honouring any contractual arrangements for supply, and of being honest about the reason why rapid antigen tests may currently be unavailable. Suppliers must be able to substantiate any claims they make about test availability, and we are asking them to do so.”
Information provided to the ACCC suggests that, following strong demand for these products, suppliers at various levels in the distribution chain are making decisions about which customers to supply. While significant volumes of orders have been placed, supply chain issues mean that many orders are still yet to be delivered to retailers.
While the ACCC is at the initial stages of its inquiries, one claim has since been publicly retracted by the supplier that initially made that representation.
Most consumer complaints are from NSW
Over two-thirds of consumer reports to the ACCC about rapid antigen test pricing were about traders in NSW. While this is a significantly higher proportion of complaints than may be expected from its population, it may also reflect that the Omicron ‘wave’ was initially concentrated in NSW more than other states, particularly in late December 2021 and early January 2022.
Almost 85 per cent of reports to the ACCC were about traders located in major Australian cities, with over 10 per cent of complaints being about traders in regional or remote Australia. The lower reporting pattern may reflect supply levels in those locations.
Emerging trends in consumer reports
Recent consumer reports to the ACCC have revealed a number of emerging issues of concern.
Pricing: The ACCC understands that some retailers may be under the impression that they are “allowed” to sell tests at a high price if they were purchased from a wholesaler. This is incorrect. Charging excessive prices for rapid antigen tests, whether they were initially supplied by a wholesale or another retailer, may be considered to be unconscionable conduct in certain circumstances – particularly given we are in the middle of a pandemic. Unconscionable conduct is prohibited by the ACL and can result in very large penalties being imposed by the Court. Retailers should be aware that they risk breaching the ACL if they charge exorbitant or excessive prices for rapid antigen tests.
False and misleading claims: The ACCC continues to receive reports of consumers being given misleading information about the reason for supply challenges. Reports of potential scams and online stores wrongly accepting payment also continue, when the online businesses stores knew, or should have known, that they would not be able to supply the tests in a timely manner.
Refusal to provide receipts: The ACCC continues to receive reports of businesses failing to provide receipts or providing incorrect receipts. Refusal to provide receipts when requested or for total purchases of $75 or more (excluding GST) is a breach of the ACL, and penalties may be imposed by the Court. The ACCC is contacting these businesses about these concerns.
Package splitting: Reports to the ACCC continue to indicate the widespread practice of packs being split and sold in individual lots, sometimes without instructions for their use. We are also aware of reports of tests approved for clinical or professional use being sold directly to consumers. These reports will continue being referred to the TGA as required.
ACCC is working with other regulators
The ACCC is continuing to work closely with other regulators to address public concerns about rapid antigen tests, and has recently referred a number of matters to the following agencies for consideration and potential investigation:
Australian Federal Police (AFP) – regarding matters that may be a breach of the Government’s 8 January 2022 determination under the Biosecurity Act, which will remain in place until 17 February 2022. The determination prohibits a person from reselling, or offering to resell, rapid antigen tests bought at retail level for mark-ups above 20 per cent. More information about the AFP’s response to rapid antigen test pricing can be found in the AFP’s media release dated 21 January 2022.
Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) – regarding alleged package splitting and sale of tests not approved for home use. Consumers can report such concerns directly to the TGA via ECT@health.gov.au.
#AceNewsReport – June.13: She was greeted by supporters and media – but was driven away without making any comments: The authorities did not say why she had been freed early:
HONG KONG: Activist Agnes Chow released from prison after she was jailed last year and China later imposed a national security law to stifle dissent in Hong Kong so what is the Basic Law and how does it work?
6 hours ago
Chow and fellow activists Joshua Wong and Ivan Lam were jailed last year for their role in protests in 2019.
Chow, 24, left the prison gates at about 10:00 local time (02:00 GMT) on Saturday.
Her supporters were heard shouting “Add oil!” – an expression that became a rallying cry during the mass protests.
Chow did not speak to the waiting media, as she was picked in a car by her friends.
Alongside Wong and Lam, also in their 20s, Agnes Chow became the face of Hong Kong’s protests. They remain in prison.
Chow’s supporters have dubbed her “the real Mulan”, in reference to the legendary Chinese heroine who fought to save her family and country. Others have called her the “goddess of democracy”.
Nathan Law, another prominent young activist, has been given asylum in the UK after fleeing Hong Kong.
What is the national security law all about?
Hong Kong – a special administrative region of China – was always meant to have a security law, but could never pass one because it was so unpopular.
So this is about the government in Beijing stepping in to ensure the city has a legal framework to deal with what it sees as serious challenges to its authority.
The details of the law’s 66 articles were kept secret until after it was passed last year. It criminalises any act of:
secession – breaking away from the country
subversion – undermining the power or authority of the central government
terrorism – using violence or intimidation against people
collusion with foreign or external forces
The law came into effect at 23:00 local time on 30 June 2020, an hour before the 23rd anniversary of the city’s handover to China from British rule.
It gives Beijing powers to shape life in Hong Kong it has never had before. Critics say it effectively curtails protest and freedom of speech – China has said it will return stability.The history behind Hong Kong’s identity crisis and protests – first broadcast November 2019
Queensland passes new youth justice legislation in crime crackdown aimed at ‘hardcore’ young offenders: ‘The legislation includes a trial of GPS monitoring devices, strengthened anti-hooning laws, increased police powers and reversing the presumption of bail for serious indictable offences’
Minister for Police and Corrective Services Mark Ryan told Parliament the measures target recidivist young offenders:
“We’re coming down hard on those who would do harm to the community,” he said.
“We are arming the police and the courts with the tools to crack down harder on that 10 per cent cohort of hardcore youth offenders.”
The state government amended its bill during the debate, making it a requirement for judges to keep young people who have been ordered to wear a monitoring device in custody until they can be fitted.
‘Bill falls a long way short’
The Liberal National Party supported the bill but failed to move amendments that would see child offenders treated the same as adults for breaching conditions of bail.
“We believe that the provisions of the Bail Act should apply equally to adults and children,” Shadow Minister for Police and Corrective Services Dale Last told Parliament.
“We have juvenile offenders running around the state committing offences at will, disregarding conditions of their bail undertaking and thumbing their noses at the law,” he said:
“This bill falls a long way short of addressing the youth crime issue plaguing this state.”
Mr Ryan told Parliament that breach of bail had never been an offence for children.
Katter’s Australian Party (KAP) also said the bill needed to go further and attempted, but failed, to move amendments.
“I’ve observed a sharp increase in people coming through my electorate office saying, ‘What are you doing about this?'” KAP leader Robbie Katter said.
He said constituents had told him stories of an 80-year-old mother who had been broken into five times and “strangled by a young kid”, another who had been repeatedly broken into and a butcher shop being smashed up.
The two Greens MPs opposed the bill, with Member for South Brisbane Amy McMahon telling Parliament: “The cohort of kids that will be most impacted by this bill are some of the most vulnerable in Queensland.”
“What this Labor government are doing is putting GPS monitors on children and making it easier for them to be immediately jailed — further marginalising these already vulnerable kids and trapping them in a cycle of criminalisation and re-offending,” she said.