TIME legal

Why New Jersey Doesn’t Let You Pump Your Own Gas

California Gas Prices Fall 9.6 Cents In One Week
Justin Sullivan—Getty Images A gasoline pump rests in the tank of a car on June 12, 2012 in San Anselmo, California.

The ban dates back to 1949

Lawmakers in New Jersey and Oregon are considering bills that would finally give drivers in those states the option to pump their own gas. But why was that practice banned in the first place?

Let’s start with the case in New Jersey. The Garden State’s ban on self-service gas stations, which are allowed in 48 states, began in 1949 when the New Jersey Legislature passed the Retail Gasoline Dispensing Safety Act. That law, enacted over concerns about the safety of consumers pumping petroleum themselves, was later followed by many other states. However, almost every state has since overturned their self-serve bans.

Some contend the New Jersey law was rooted in corruption, not safety concerns. There are also worries that young, inexperienced drivers run into trouble when visiting neighboring states and forced to pump their own gas for the first time (that was an issue for the author of this story when he drove in Pennsylvania as a teenager).

In both states, advocates say gasoline could be several cents cheaper if stations weren’t required to pay staff to pump gas. But thousands of jobs are also at stake if the practice ends.

That could all change now that lawmakers in New Jersey said Monday they intend to introduce legislation that would give drivers the option of self or full service at gasoline stations. That proposal comes about a month after a measure would allow drivers in rural parts of Oregon to serve themselves.

In some ways, these potential law changes could be a sign of the times. Roughly a year ago, a survey found that while Oregonians are almost evenly divided on self-service gas, voters under the age of 45 are strongly in favor of controlling the pump.

This article originally appeared on Fortune.com.

MONEY Shopping

Why Stores Can’t Sell You Cheaper Contact Lenses

Getty Images/Adam Gault

Can you say: price fixing?

Costco and online sellers like 1-800 CONTACTS would love to sell you cheaper contact lenses. But in recent years, the country’s biggest contact manufacturers have instituted minimum prices for their products that make it impossible for retailers to offer them at lower price points.

In testimony before Congress last summer, the Consumers Union declared such policies “uncompetitive” and tantamount to price fixing: “Consumers are denied more affordable alternatives. They pay more than they need to, and sellers who would like to make those affordable alternatives available are denied the opportunity to do so.”

The manufacturers are taking advantage of a 2007 U.S. Supreme Court decision that established that it was legal for price floors to be set in certain situations. The one stipulation is that the manufacturers must not be “actively coordinating prices among themselves or with retailers,” as Marketplace put it. It’s impossible to prove that Johnson & Johnson, Alcon, Bausch & Lomb, and other big sellers are conspiring to set prices, yet all have instituted unilateral pricing, which means that retailers aren’t allowed to sell their products below a certain price. The net result is that stores and online sellers can’t discount the vast majority of name-brand contact lenses on the market, so there’s no point in consumers shopping around.

Earlier this year, the Utah legislature passed a bill that would prohibit the setting of price floors on contact lenses. It’s worth noting that online discounter 1800CONTACTS.com backed the bill and just so happens to be headquartered in Utah.

The big contact lens companies followed by suing Utah in federal court, and the latest news is that an appeals court declared the law unconstitutional, blocking it from being enforced. Essentially, the court has said that the contact lens manufacturers are within their legal rights to mandate a price floor.

Novartis, owner of the Alcon brand, has argued that price minimums are necessary to combat “showrooming,” the nickname for the practice in which consumers scope out prices from one seller—often, the optometrist’s office where they receive prescriptions—before shopping around and getting the product at a cheaper price elsewhere, typically online. “Eye-care professionals incur the cost of studying and appraising the new technology, but online and big-box retailers do not,” the company wrote in defense of price floors.

Costco, which says the price minimums have forced it to charge prices that are 20% higher than they would have for some contacts, warned that if eye care professionals don’t have to compete on price, they will “leverage their control over prescriptions and brand selection to also control and monopolize contact lens sales.” The result wouldn’t be bad just for Costco; it would negatively affect consumers too.

For the time being at least, the discount retailers—and by extension, consumers seeking contacts at lower prices—are on the losing side of the battle.

MONEY credit cards

Can You Buy Marijuana With a Credit Card?

Conte's Clone Bar & Dispensary in Denver, Colorado
Craig F. Walker—Denver Post via Getty Images Conte's Clone Bar & Dispensary in Denver, Colorado

Despite legal uncertainties, some pot dispensaries accept plastic.

It’s been more than a year since legal recreational pot sales started in Colorado, and as much as dispensary owners enjoy the booming business, they’re sick of swimming in cash. Though the Department of Justice released regulations last year allowing banks to accept money from legal dispensaries, it’s still a federal crime — the announcement that the DOJ won’t pursue institutions that process legal pot money hasn’t been enough to make everyone comfortable.

It seems some Colorado business owners have run out of patience waiting for the banking industry to get on board with legal cannabis sales. According to a poll of 78 state-licensed dispensaries in the Denver area conducted by FOX31, 27 (or 47%) of them would be “willing to accept Visa or MasterCard as payment.”

Some of them may be working with financial institutions that have decided to accept money from legal cannabis sales, despite federal laws, but they’re probably trying to downplay or conceal the nature of the business, FOX31’s investigation suggests. Credit card transactions conducted at legal dispensaries produced receipts with company names like “AJS Holdings LLC” and “Indoor Garden Products.” Even though the federal government has said it will stand by and let legal dispensaries use the banking system and the credit card transactions it enables, that hasn’t erased the concerns over Drug Enforcement Agency audits for money laundering.

Given that credit card processing at marijuana dispensaries remains risky, it’s interesting that nearly half of the companies polled by FOX31 said they’d accept credit cards. (It was unclear from the story if the dispensaries polled actually have the ability to process such payments or if they’d merely like to.)

If it’s becoming more common for dispensaries to accept credit card payments, that’s both good and bad for consumers. The good thing is the ability to pay as you prefer and allow you to walk into a dispensary without a bunch of cash in your wallet. On the other hand, using a credit card may lead consumers to spend more than they can afford, potentially accumulating credit card debt. Then again, all consumer goods pose that threat — the important thing is to spend within your means, whether you’re buying indoor gardening products or “Indoor Gardening Products.” What you put on your credit card doesn’t matter to your financial and credit stability, but how much you charge and how you manage that balance does.

More from Credit.com

This article originally appeared on Credit.com.

TIME medicine

Most Americans Think Medical Marijuana Shouldn’t Be Used By Kids, Poll Says

183842907
Getty Images

And 80% think adults shouldn't use medical marijuana in front of children

While most Americans think medical marijuana should be allowed for adults, a majority says the drug shouldn’t be used by or in the presence of children, a new poll shows.

The C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health found that 63% of American adults think their state should allow the use of medical marijuana among adults. But only 36% think it should be allowed for children and teenagers under age 18. The poll also found that 80% think adults should not use medical marijuana in front of children. Ten percent know someone with a medical marijuana card or they have their own.

Close to half of the states currently allow the use of medical marijuana.

“Our findings suggest that not only is the public concerned about the use of medical marijuana among children, but that the majority of Americans worry that even exposure to it may be harmful to kids’ health,” Dr. Matthew M. Davis, director of the National Poll on Children’s Health and a professor at University of Michigan Medical School, said in a statement. “As is typical with anything involving health, the public’s standards are much higher when it comes to protecting children’s health.”

 

TIME legal

What to Know About Google’s Fight With Europe

Google and European Union logos are seen in Sarajevo, in this April 15, 2015 photo illustration.
Dado Ruvic—Reuters Google and European Union logos are seen in Sarajevo, in this April 15, 2015 photo illustration.

The search giant faces charges of anticompetitive behavior in Europe

A new antitrust complaint filed against Google by the European Union Wednesday could force the company to pay huge fines and change the way its search engine operates in Europe.

In the complaint, EU regulators say Google has abused its dominance in online search to stifle competition. If the charges stick, Google could face a cascade of antitrust allegations over a variety of its other services as well.

Here’s a quick explainer of why European officials are targeting Google and how the search giant has responded so far.

What is the European Union saying Google did wrong?

The formal accusation is tied to the way Google displays its shopping comparison product, Google Shopping, in search results. Items from Google Shopping are displayed at the top of the search results page when users search for many basic products, like “kites” or “dog food.” According to the EU, automatically placing Google’s own service in this prized digital real estate could “artificially divert traffic from rival comparison shopping services and hinder their ability to compete, to the detriment of consumers, as well as stifling innovation.”

Why does it matter whether Google promotes its rivals equally?

Google controls more than 90% of the search engine market share in most European countries, compared to about 65% market share in the U.S. According to Google’s rivals, such as Yelp and Microsoft, that control over search gives Google incredible influence over the viability of other companies that rely on search results to drive web traffic and generate business.

What is Google’s counterargument?

In a blog post Wednesday, Amit Singhal, Google’s senior vice president for Search, points out that traffic to Google Shopping is still dwarfed by sites like Amazon and eBay in European countries and does not significantly outpace other competitors. He also cited the successful IPO of German shopping site Zalando as proof that competition was not being stifled by Google Search.

“Any economist would say that you typically do not see a ton of innovation, new entrants or investment in sectors where competition is stagnating — or dominated by one player,” he wrote. “Yet that is exactly what’s happening in our world.”

How long has the European investigation been going on?

Officials began a general investigation into Google’s search practices in November of 2010. After years of back and forth, Google reached a tentative settlement with the European Commission in February 2014 in which the company agreed to place competitors’ search results at the top of the results page along with results from Google’s services. However, the settlement was ultimately rejected later in the year. Now the EU has a new antitrust chief, Margrethe Vestager, who has taken a harder line against Google.

What punishments could Google face?

The European Union can collect fines as large as 10% of annual sales for violation of antitrust law. In Google’s case, that would amount to more than $6 billion, though it isn’t clear if a final fee would go that high. The company could also be forced to change the way its search engine works — in its charges, the European Commission says Google should treat its own comparison shopping service the same as that of its rivals by showing whatever results are most relevant based on a user’s search query.

Google will have ten weeks to respond to the EU’s allegations in hopes of avoiding a big fine.

Is this only about Google Shopping?

No. The European Commission also announced that it’s opening an antitrust investigation into Android, Google’s mobile operating system. The Commission will consider whether Google pressured manufacturers who use Android on their devices to pre-install Google’s own apps. It will also seek to learn if Google prevented manufacturers from developing modified versions of Android in a manner that runs afoul of antitrust law.

For its part, Google argues Android has helped spur mobile innovation and that its practices are not out of line with the way Apple and Microsoft control their mobile ecosystems.

The Commission is also continuing to investigate how Google prioritizes its own specialized results in other specific fields, such as flights, and the kinds of restrictions the company places on advertisers.

Could Google face similar scrutiny in the U.S.?

It’s doubtful. The Federal Trade Commission launched an antitrust investigation into Google in 2011 but ultimately filed no legal charges against the search giant. A recently disclosed internal report, however, revealed the FTC was closer than initially believed to filing charges against Google.

Has this ever happened before?

American tech giant Microsoft long sparred with European regulators over antitrust concerns regarding the Windows operating system and Internet browsers. Microsoft initially got away without a fine by agreeing to offer new Windows users in Europe a wider choice of browsers. However, Microsoft was fined $732 million in 2013 when it was found not to be complying with that deal (Microsoft blamed technical errors). Some commentators argue Microsoft’s dealings with European regulators changed the company’s culture in profound ways.

Read next: How Google Perfected the Silicon Valley Acquisition

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TIME Companies

Google to Face Antitrust Charges in Europe

The Google logo is seen inside the company's offices in Berlin on Mar. 23, 2015.
Adam Berry—Getty Images The Google logo is seen inside the company's offices in Berlin on Mar. 23, 2015.

European Union regulators will charge Google with anti-competitive behavior

After a five-year antitrust investigation of Google, European regulators are said to be ready to file formal charges against the company as soon as Wednesday.

The European Commission plans to accuse the online search giant of violating the region’s antitrust laws, according to reports from the Financial Times and The Wall Street Journal. European Union regulators will charge Google with anti-competitive behavior such as diverting online traffic away from rival companies toward its own services.

The European Commission has spent half a decade investigating Google’s online behavior in an effort to find evidence that the company takes advantage of its dominant position in the online search market. Google could end up facing a fine of up to $6.6 billion in what would be one of the EU’s largest-ever antitrust battles.

EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager is expected to announce the formal charges against Google in a statement Wednesday that will follow a meeting with other EU commissioners, according to the FT.

Rumors surfaced last month that the EU was wrapping up its investigation and that charges could be brought as soon as this month. WSJ reported earlier this month that the European Commission was requesting confidential information pertaining to Google’s online practices from companies that previously filed lawsuits against the U.S. tech company.

Last fall, European Parliament members voted overwhelmingly to approve a non-binding resolution that called for the break-up of Google in Europe, where the company has a nearly 90% market share, which is larger than its share of the U.S. market.

Google’s shares dipped 1.6% Tuesday afternoon before rising slightly in after-hours trading.

This article originally appeared on Fortune.com.

TIME legal

This Country Just Banned Revenge Porn

TIME.com stock photos Computer Keyboard Typing Hack
Elizabeth Renstrom for TIME

New U.K. law cracks down on many kinds of online abuse

The United Kingdom is cracking down on people who share nude photos of their exes without their consent, a practice known as revenge porn.

Under the U.K.’s new Criminal Justice and Courts Act enacted Monday, anyone who discloses private sexual photographs of another person with the intent to cause distress could be prosecuted. Violating the new law carries a punishment of up to two years in prison, a fine or both. The law applies to photos shared both online and offline, according to The Telegraph.

The new law marks the U.K.’s first time revenge porn has been listed as a specific crime.

The U.K. is also cracking down on Internet trolls through the new act. Punishment for abusive messages that have the “intention of causing distress or anxiety” will be punishable by up to two years in prison, up from a six-month maximum under previous rules.

TIME legal

This Could Be Google’s Plan Make Sure You Don’t Accidentally Read Spoilers Online

The tech giant might have a spoiler blocker in the works

There’s good news for Netflix lovers.

The frustration of accidentally reading spoilers posted on social media may soon be a thing of the past, according to an “anti-spoiler” patent awarded to Google on Tuesday. The patent suggests that the system would track your TV or movie viewing progress—what episode of Orange Is the New Black you’re on, for example—and filter out information on what you haven’t yet watched.

The patent doesn’t outline what kinds of sites—Facebook, Twitter, Google News—the system would filter for spoilers. But Google’s idea arrives as customers are increasingly ditching cable subscriptions for on-demand streaming services, like Netflix and Hulu Plus. In addition, the Netflix model of putting an entire season online at once has annoyed some viewers by promoting spoilers (the company is also unabashedly pro-spoiler, with a viral campaign page called “Living with Spoilers”).

But don’t start celebrating just yet. Large companies like Google aren’t required to turn a patented technology into reality, and even if they do, it can take several years. Still, at the pace online streaming content is growing, there’s no better time for Google’s spoiler blocker.

Read next: How to Watch All the TV You Want Without Paying a Cable Bill

 

 

TIME Video Games

Super Mario 64 In-Browser Game Gets Taken Down

Super Mario In-Browser Nintendo Take Down
Yoshikazu Tsuno—AFP/Getty Images Nintendo's characters Super Mario and Luigi performing in Tokyo, Japan, on April 26, 2014.

Nintendo wasn't pleased with the computer-friendly remake

It’s game over for the in-browser version of Nintendo’s Super Mario 64 that took the Internet by storm this week.

Nintendo issued a takedown notice Tuesday to the server hosting the 1996 game’s browser version, created by Royston Ross, who recreated just the first level (Bomb-Omb Battlefield), TorrentFreak first reported Tuesday.

“The copyrighted work at issue is Nintendo’s Super Mario 64 video game (U.S. Copyright Reg. No. PA0000788138), including but not limited to the audiovisual work, computer program, music, and fictional character depictions,” the company told the server Cloudflare, which posted its correspondence with Nintendo.

While the in-browser game is no longer available, you can still get a glimpse of the remake in a video Ross posted online:

Read next: Exclusive: Inside Nintendo’s Bold Plan to Stay Vibrant for the Next 125 Years

[TorrentFreak]

TIME Management

6 Charts Showing Tech’s Gender Gap Is More Complicated Than You Think

See why it's so hard to break the glass ceiling in Silicon Valley

 

Several of Silicon Valley’s biggest companies have released a series of diversity reports revealing how few women held the companies’ top jobs — or jobs in general. Now a recent string of lawsuits is suggesting that the fix isn’t simply to recruit more women — what about the women who are already employed? Are they being held back from rising up?

That’s the key question in investing partner-turned-Reddit CEO Ellen Pao’s ongoing lawsuit against her former employer, Kleiner Perkins, a highly-established venture capital firm based in Menlo Park, California. The jury in Pao’s case began hearing closing arguments this week, and will soon decide whether it was gender bias that prevented Pao from being promoted to a higher-ranking partner, or, as Kleiner Perkins’ lawyer argued, whether Pao is simply “[blaming] others for her own failures.”

Adding to the scrutiny of Silicon Valley’s treatment of women are two other high-profile gender discrimination lawsuits against Twitter and Facebook, both recently filed by former female employees.

A gender gap in the workplace, particularly in Silicon Valley, is old news. But Kleiner Perkins isn’t kind of Silicon Valley company we’re used to hearing about. By suing a venture capital firm, Pao raises a important point — the gender gap could be a problem at the firms that are often funding Valley companies, too. (In addressing this claim, Kleiner Perkins said in a trial brief last month it has “long been a supporter of women entrepreneurs.”)

According to a report by Babson College in 2013, gender bias reveals itself in the patterns of venture capital investments. (The study was sponsored by Ernst & Young and the Diana Project, both of which prioritize workforce diversity.) Upon analyzing these patterns, the study found that businesses with all-male leadership teams are four times as likely to receive venture capital funding as teams with even one woman.

That apparent gender bias might explain why only 3% of venture-funded businesses are led by women, according to Babson College’s report, which surveyed 6,517 of these businesses. About one-third of all U.S. businesses are led by women, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration:

 

Curiously, the percentage of female venture capital investors (11%) is almost equal to the percentage of female executives among Silicon Valley’s Top 150 companies (10.8%) — though this is merely a correlation. (These data points come respectively from the latest Venture Census and a 2014 report by Fenwick & West LLP, a global law firm with clients including Facebook and Google.)

Even if these two gender gaps are wholly unrelated, it’s still worth noting that Silicon Valley appears to have an especially pronounced gender diversity problem when compared to the S&P 100. The S&P 100 is a non-industry specific stock index comprised of companies with the 100 leading U.S. stocks, many of which are outside Silicon Valley:

 

So it’s an undeniable truth that Silicon Valley has a gender diversity problem. But the question of whether the gap has started to close is a bit trickier.

Take, for example, the following chart from Fenwick’s report. It shows the percentage of women in the highest-ranking positions in Valley’s top 150 companies (“SV 150″) between 1996 and 2014. By looking at the upward trends, you could say that gender diversity in Silicon Valley has improved:

But don’t jump to any conclusions. Once again, when you compare the SV 150 to the S&P 100 benchmark, gender diversity in the Valley appears to be problematic. Take a look at the following chart, which shows the top Valley companies had lower percentages of women than the S&P 100 in every single leadership position except President/COO and General Counsel in 2014:

There’s yet another caveat: If you examine only the very top Valley companies, the gender diversity problem is cast in a much better light. After all, Google just named a female CFO this week, while Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer and Hewlett-Packard CEO Meg Whitman are proof of change among tech titans.

The chart below shows gender diversity in the Valley’s top 15 companies (“SV15″), like Google and HP, has rapidly improved. Female representation was remarkably strong in a several positions in 2014, including President/COO and CFO. But other positions, like Chair, were still entirely male in 2014 — just like in 1996:

These mixed messages regarding the depth of Silicon Valley’s gender problem are surfacing on both sides of Pao’s trial. Kleiner Perkins’ lawyers, for example, argued that 20% of its partners are women. That’s much higher than the average of 6%, according to Babson College’s report, which surveyed 139 venture capital firms’ partners in 2013. Kleiner Perkins’ top ranking female partner, Mary Meeker, even testified against Pao, arguing the company promoted women based on their merits.

But Pao, too, had an arsenal of numbers at the ready. In addition to qualitative evidence of gender bias — like claims of all-male dinner parties — Pao’s legal team also cited the superior performance of investments made by the company’s female investors, including Pao. A female partner at Kleiner Perkins once reportedly even constructed a matrix comparing women’s and men’s investments to drive this point home.

The jury in Pao’s trial will soon put an end to these arguments — but the gender gap debate will surely continue outside the courtroom. Even if the jury sides with Kleiner Perkins, Pao’s closely watched trial remains a warning for the larger, male-dominated business industry to reevaluate the treatment of women in their companies. There’s a business incentive at play here, too: Companies with female leaders appear to be performing unusually well, according to a recent study of women-led companies by Karen Rubin, director of product management at the algorithm development site Quantopian. In her study, Rubin showed how the women-led Fortune 1000 companies — there are only 27 currently — posted greater cumulative returns than those of SPY, a tracker of the S&P 500 stock index, which Rubin used as a benchmark:

Women Leader Fortune 1000

In fact, it seems that these female-run companies have outperformed the male-dominated benchmark even more often since the financial crisis of 2008-09. That’s a gender gap to be proud of — and one that can’t be ignored.

Read next: 5 Best Ways Men Can #LeanInTogether to Help Women Get Ahead

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