Economic Development and Emerging Technologies
Few people know that online retailers adjust prices for consumers based on any number of factors ranging from their device type and location to what car they own, how much debt they have, and even what they search for while online. Researchers have confirmed that major e-commerce websites use price discrimination for identical online searches, figuring out how much a consumer will pay and then charging accordingly. It’s a practice that creates unequal bargaining power and prevents consumers from knowing when they are receiving a fair price. This legislation tries to level the online playing field by requiring online retailers who use big data for price discrimination to disclose that they are offering different prices for the same product and the range of prices that they are offering. It also prohibits price manipulation that intends to discriminate against or has the effect of discriminating against protected classes of individuals in Massachusetts.
In October 2016, hackers obtained access to over a million smart devices, shutting down websites like Twitter and Netflix and prompting new concerns over the security of the Internet of Things (IoT). The majority of devices hacked were devices that lacked basic security protocols to safeguard consumer data. Reports estimate that by 2020, there will be 30 billion connected things and 40 percent of all data generated will come from connected sensors. The rapid projected expansion of the IoT, along with the susceptibility of our Internet infrastructure to cyberattacks, makes it essential that we safeguard the personal data collected by smart devices. This legislation protects our privacy and our smart devices by requiring the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation to adopt new regulations to safeguard personal data that is collected by smart devices, IoT technology, and autonomous vehicles that incorporate IoT into their equipment.
Local governments need additional capacity to develop and manage busy areas like downtowns, main streets, and village centers. These special places often desire extra services (such as cleaning, branding, cultural programming, landscaping, supporting local businesses, etc.) that the municipality cannot provide. This legislation presents a solution by authorizing the establishment of Community Benefit Districts (CBDs). As nonprofit partnerships providing supplemental services and management of important areas, CBDs empower communities to solve their own problems based on their unique characteristics. CBDs differ from Business Improvement Districts in that they are easier to create and dissolve, emphasize mixed-use development, and allow participation of all property owners.
It’s frustrating to hear about a Massachusetts manufacturer who buys a widget from China, when the same widget is being made 15 miles down the road, or to hear people say they would love to buy gifts locally, but end up going online because they don’t know where to shop. Massachusetts is home to thousands of entrepreneurs and small businesses that produce quality goods but are unable to promote their products on a large scale. This legislation creates a program, administered by the Office of Business Development, that will identify and promote business entities that are headquartered and produce consumer products in Massachusetts, helping to connect them with potential customers.
This legislation creates a Financial Services Innovation Office (FSIO) within the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation to assist companies in understanding and complying with state regulations that apply to their financial innovations. The FSIO would also consider petitions from companies for alternative compliance agreements, which the FSIO would accept if the alternative means of compliance served the public interest, improved access to financial services, did not present risk to the financial system, and promoted consumer protection.
This legislation allows for the full clawback of Massachusetts Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credits under certain circumstances. Full clawback would be allowed when taxpayers who received credits for a structure dispose of their interest in the structure to an entity which is not required to pay property taxes.
Currently, charities can apply for temporary licenses that allow them to serve wine at fundraisers or other events. They can’t, however, use these licenses to serve beer. This legislation would expand the license to cover both wine and beer.
The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled in the 2010 case Fordyce v. Town of Hanover that in the commonwealth’s public bidding statutes, the word “fraud” should be interpreted according to its common law definition. This legislation codifies the Supreme Judicial Court’s interpretation by adding the common law definition of fraud to the public bidding law.