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New Fuel Prices Fresh Fuel price hike looms in Kenya

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The Energy Regulatory Commission is staring at a deep dilemma Friday as it readies to announce new pump prices amid the controversy over the 16 per cent value added tax on petroleum products.

With the rise in international crude prices last month and the VAT still in limbo but in force, the regulator may not have good news for Kenyans.




The announcement came on Wednesday, after a Russian publication quoted the player’s father, Dmitri, as saying in June 2017 that Cheryshev had received growth hormone injections when he played at Spanish side Villarreal.

ERC’s pricing Friday is clouded in uncertainty with a contempt proceeding on its doorstep for failing to respect a Bungoma High Court order by Justice Stephen Riech quashing the implementation of the 16 per cent levy on petroleum products to enable the President to either assent to or reject the amended Finance Bill passed by the National Assembly.

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The dilemma is heightened by the silence from State House with the long wait for President Uhuru Kenyatta who had been out of the country when the VAT kicked in and whose signature the court battle is pegged on

ODM leader Raila Odinga had even assured the public on September 3 that the president would sign into law the amendments to the 16 per cent VAT on petroleum products passed by Parliament.

Wednesday, government spokesperson Erick Kiraithe’s newspaper commentary that the president is yet to receive the bill pushing the tax by two years paints an even grimmer picture over the fuel tax stalemate.

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Another oddity facing Friday’s price revisions is the increasing costs for crude oil through the month of August which will be key in determining the pump prices since landed cost is a key component of the monthly price revisions.

 The crude oil prices have been on the rise from a low of $75 per barrel at the beginning of the month to yesterday’s high of $79.4 per barrel (according to Brett crude data), meaning ERC may be forced to raise the prices amid foul public mood over the VAT.

Should ERC announce a higher revision of the petroleum product prices Friday, the uproar is bound to be worse since the public outcry took temporary relief thanks to the ongoing court battle and the hope of the president signing the Bill passed by parliament late last month to push the tax two years ahead.

Consumers Federation of Kenya secretary-general Stephen Mutoro said the move to delay presenting the Bill to the president is among the ploys being made to buy time.

“There is obviously no political goodwill to relieve consumers from this burden and for ERC to pretend to be implementing a tax law while ignoring a court order is simply double standard. You will still see a rise in pump prices tomorrow based on these dodgy moves they have made since last week when we all know these products are already overtaxed. The president must make a move, it’s an unprecedented silence from him on this one,” Mr Mutoro said.

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24 Hours Across Africa

Elizabeth Warren, targets prospective plan to stop ‘looting’ of U.S. companies

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U.S. Democratic presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren on Thursday called for an overhaul of the private-equity industry as part of a new proposal targeting Wall Street.

“We need to shut down the Wall Street giveaways and rein in the financial industry so it stops sucking money out of the rest of the economy,” Warren said in a post on Medium.com announcing her proposal.

Warren and a group of Democrats also filed legislation on Thursday to implement the policy that the Massachusetts senator proposed through her campaign.

Warren, a relentless critic of the financial industry for much of her career, is one of more than two dozen candidates vying for the Democratic nomination to challenge Republican President Donald Trump in the November 2020 election.

She has distinguished herself in the crowded field by releasing reams of policy proposals.

The legislation, titled the Stop Wall Street Looting Act was filed in both the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate.

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, who also is running for president, is a co-sponsor with Warren but no Republicans joined in sponsoring the bill.

The proposal was greeted with opposition from industry and business groups, who would undoubtedly fight efforts to enact the legislation.

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24 Hours Across Africa

EU to probe Amazon over use of merchant data

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Amazon became the target of an antitrust investigation by the European Union on Wednesday over its use of merchants’ data, underlining the increasing regulatory scrutiny about how tech companies exploit customers’ information.

The European Commission has been seeking feedback from retailers and manufacturers since September into Amazon’s dual role as a marketplace for merchants and acting as a competitor following complaints from traders about Amazon’s practices.

The Commission said its investigation would focus on Amazon’s standard agreements with marketplace sellers and its use of data in choosing winners of the “buy box”, which allows consumers to add items from a specific retailer directly to their shopping carts.

European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, who can fine companies up to 10% of their global turnover, said the issue was crucial as more and more Europeans shop online.

“E-commerce has boosted retail competition and brought more choice and better prices. We need to ensure that large online platforms don’t eliminate these benefits through anti-competitive behavior,” she said.

Amazon said it would cooperate fully with the EU investigation. The company reached a deal with Germany’s antitrust authority on Wednesday to overhaul its terms of service for third-party merchants.

Under its terms of service for Europe here set out on its website, merchants grant Amazon “royalty-free” rights to use in a range of ways their materials, such as technology, trademarks, content and product information.

“There have been concerns around the world that competition authorities have failed to appreciate the market power that comes from ownership of data,” he said.

In Amazon’s case, he said the Commission needed to show “the standard agreements with retailers were anti-competitive in somehow allowing Amazon to use the data to manipulate market outcomes, or that Amazon had in some way abused its dominance.”

The Commission had been struggling to define the market in which Amazon operates in order to identify where the competitive harm could have been, sources said.

This would not be Amazon’s first run-in with the Commission. Two years ago, it was told to pay back taxes of about 250 million euros ($280 million) to Luxembourg because of illegal tax benefits. That same year it settled with the regulator over its distribution deals with e-book publishers in Europe.

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