Current Events in March 2020

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    Most people won’t have to pay their federal taxes by April 15th

    Because of the coronavirus, the deadline is being extended

    Taxpayers won’t have to pay taxes they owe by the April 15th deadline, thanks to an emergency declaration from the White House.

    President Trump announced the reprieve, saying the delay in payment would keep more money in Americans’ pockets at a time when they’re coping with the economic fallout from the coronavirus (COVID-19). It wasn’t immediately clear whether taxpayers would still have to file their tax returns by the deadline.

    The announcement came Wednesday night in an Oval Office address in which the president said he would use his emergency authority to give individuals and some businesses more time to pay the taxes they owe if they have suffered “adverse effects” from the coronavirus.

    However, when he addressed a House committee earlier in the day, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the reprieve would apply to nearly everyone, except for large corporations and the “super-rich.”

    Mnuchin also said the delay would keep about $200 billion in consumers’ pockets and company coffers to deal with the economic hardships the virus may cause. He told lawmakers the administration could act without having to get Congress’ approval, though there is evidence that the approval might have been granted anyway.

    Democrats on board

    Two Democratic senators -- Patty Murray from Washington and Bob Menendez from New Jersey -- urged the White House to take the action, saying Americans shouldn’t have to worry about filing their taxes during a health crisis.

    “Given the growing nationwide concerns regarding the potential spread and the resulting economic and public health impact of such an outbreak, we urge you to act quickly and remove one source of stress that individuals face during the crisis,” the lawmakers wrote.

    At the same time, taxpayers who are owed a tax refund should go ahead and file a return to get their money. Presumably, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) will process returns normally.

    The president is also taking emergency action to provide financial aid to people who have not been able to work because they have either become ill or are under quarantine. Trump said he would work with Congress to appropriate additional money for that use.

    Taxpayers won’t have to pay taxes they owe by the April 15th deadline, thanks to an emergency declaration from the White House.President Trump announce...

    Wall Street’s 11-year bull market ends in a two-week sell-off

    Stocks keep falling as the U.S. imposes a travel ban to and from Europe

    It’s official. After an 11-year run, Wall Street’s bull market is over.

    The Dow Jones Industrial Average ended trading Wednesday down 20 percent from its all-time high, reached only last month. A 20 percent drop is generally accepted as the definition of a bear market.

    Stocks traded sharply lower again Thursday after President Trump announced a 30-day ban on travel to and from Europe as a means to slow the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19). The outbreak has hit France and Italy particularly hard, with most of Italy having shut down since the beginning of this week.

    The just-ended bull market, the longest in history, began in early March 2009 after a steep stock market decline following the financial crisis. It has climbed ever since, interrupted only by brief corrections.

    In recent days, the world’s stock markets have plunged with breathtaking speed as the coronavirus has spread around the world, taking a toll on the economy and public health. The travel and hospitality industries have been hit the hardest.

    Hotels have seen bookings plummet as tourists change plans and professional groups cancel meetings and conferences. That trend has hit the nation’s airlines particularly hard, with JetBlue CEO Robin Hayes saying the drop in business in March is worse than in the aftermath of 9/11.

    Oil’s collapse not necessarily a good thing

    At the same time, the price of oil plunged this week, which is ordinarily a good thing for consumers because it leads to lower gasoline prices. But the price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia is so fierce that it threatens the survival of many small U.S. shale oil companies that need more expensive oil in order to make a profit.

    Banks that have lent money to these firms and financial investors who have purchased bonds issued by these oil companies risk losses if these companies go under. Mohamed El-Erian, chief economist at Allianz, says all of this is putting enormous stress on the financial markets.

    “We started seeing today more market stress, more liquidity stress,” El-Erian told CNBC. “Tuesday, it was just the credit market and the inflation market. Today, it got to the Treasury market. So be careful out there is what I tell people.”

    El-Erian says the markets will go much lower before they start to rebound. Wall Street opened sharply lower for Thursday’s trading.

    It’s official. After an 11-year run, Wall Street’s bull market is over.The Dow Jones Industrial Average ended trading Wednesday down 20 percent from it...

    NCAA bans fans from ‘March Madness’ arenas

    The NBA has also suspended the rest of the 2020 season after a player tested positive for COVID-19

    For the first time ever, “March Madness,” the NCAA basketball tournament, will be played in nearly empty arenas to prevent the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19). The NCAA has ruled that, as a precaution, only limited family members of players and coaches will be permitted to watch the action from the bleachers.

    Meanwhile, the National Basketball Association (NBA) shocked the sports world Wednesday night when it suspended the remainder of the 2020 season. The league took the action after a player on the Utah Jazz, Rudy Gobert, tested positive for COVID-19.

    The actions by the collegiate and professional basketball leagues are a precaution taken to prevent the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) as other events gathering large numbers of people are being canceled or postponed.

    NCAA President Mark Emmert said he consulted with a number of public health officials and the league’s COVID-19 advisory panel about a proper course of action.

    “I have made the decision to conduct our upcoming championship events, including the Division I men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, with only essential staff and limited family attendance,” Emmert said in a statement. “While I understand how disappointing this is for all fans of our sports, my decision is based on the current understanding of how COVID-19 is progressing in the United States.”

    Various conference tournaments, which started Wednesday, were also affected by the spectator ban. The Ivy League took the additional step of canceling its tournament, and the Big Ten, SEC, and American leagues have followed suit.

    Best interest of public safety

    Emmert said he thinks the decision is in the best interest of public health, including that of coaches, administrators, fans and, most importantly, the players on the floor.

    “We recognize the opportunity to compete in an NCAA national championship is an experience of a lifetime for the students and their families,” he said. “Today, we will move forward and conduct championships consistent with the current information and will continue to monitor and make adjustments as needed.”

    The statement did not say whether fans who have purchased tickets to tournament games well in advance will receive refunds. Presumably, they will, although the current NCAA policy makes that far from clear.

    Ticket refunds

    “If the event is canceled, we ask you to send us a request for reimbursement, accompanied by your name and the order number,” Ticketmaster says on its website. “We will cancel the order in your name and the amount you have paid will be paid to the credit card with which you have made the purchase by the deadline.”

    Stubhub, a marketplace for second-hand ticket sales, says its FanProtect Guarantee protects every purchase.

    “The ticket you’ve purchased on our site will get you into the event or your money back,” the company said. Late Wednesday, a Stubhub spokesman confirmed to ConsumerAffairs that the FanProtect Guarantee covers the new NCAA tournament policy.

    The businesses in the tournaments’ host cities will not likely be as lucky. Thousands of free-spending fans normally descend on these cities, spending money in bars, restaurants, hotels, and with Uber drivers and airlines.

    Yahoo Finance calls March Madness “the NCAA’s bread and butter,” generating $1 billion in revenue, though a sizable portion of that is for TV rights, which become all the more important for fans who can’t see the games in person.

    For the men’s tournament teams will be selected on Sunday. Tournament games, starting next week, will be televised by CBS, TBS, TNT, and True TV.

    For the first time ever, “March Madness,” the NCAA basketball tournament, will be played in nearly empty arenas to prevent the spread of the coronavirus (C...

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      Thirdhand smoke can threaten consumers' health in non-smoking environments

      Researchers say chemicals left behind by smoke can be dangerous

      While recent studies have found how dangerous thirdhand smoke can be for children, a new study has found that the chemicals that come from thirdhand smoke can be risky for all consumers’ health. 

      According to researchers from Yale University, smokers can leave behind traces of cigarette smoke in closed, non-smoking environments. The chemicals then get stuck in the air or on furniture, affecting those who enter the space later on.

      “In real-world conditions, we see concentrated emissions of hazardous gases coming from groups of people who were previously exposed to tobacco smoke as they enter a non-smoking location with strict regulations against indoor smoking,” said researcher Drew Gentner. 

      “People are substantial carriers of thirdhand smoke contaminants to other environments. So, the idea that someone is protected from the potential health effects of cigarette smoke because they’re not directly exposed to secondhand smoke is not the case.” 

      Tracking exposure to smoke

      To better understand how smokers can affect the health of non-smokers in indoor environments, the researchers studied the particles found inside of a movie theater over the course of one week. 

      Though it’s prohibited to smoke inside movie theaters, the researchers found that consumers were at risk of chemical exposure because of thirdhand smoke, regardless of their own smoking status. 

      “Despite regulations preventing people from smoking indoors, near entryways, and near air intakes, hazardous chemicals from cigarette smoke are still making their way indoors,” said researcher Roger Sheu. 

      Nicotine was the most prominent chemical left behind by smokers, but the researchers found that the remains of all chemicals were significant. This is problematic because chemicals are trapped in the theater and cling to surfaces that other theatergoers come into contact with. 

      The study revealed that the thirdhand emissions in the movie theater were equivalent to one hour of exposure of up to 10 cigarettes. 

      These results are concerning because consumers can be exposed to these toxins regardless of whether or not they or someone they live with smokes. This is particularly risky for children, who are typically at the highest risk. 

      The researchers explained that avoiding public spaces likely won’t eliminate the risk, but gravitating towards areas with proper ventilation can be beneficial. 

      While recent studies have found how dangerous thirdhand smoke can be for children, a new study has found that the chemicals that come from thirdhand smoke...

      Several states end opposition to T-Mobile/Sprint merger

      Officials from 12 states will not appeal a court ruling that approved of the deal

      The merger between T-Mobile and Sprint is now facing less opposition from regulators. Officials from several states have accepted concessions from the two companies and stated that they will not challenge the deal further after it was approved last month. 

      Reuters reports that the newly combined company will offer all of the plans that T-Mobile had in place before the merger was approved for at least five years. There are also enforceable commitments in place that guarantee pricing and job protections, and the states involved in the settlement will receive up to $15 million to offset legal fees.

      The states involved in the settlement include California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Washington D.C., and Wisconsin. 

      States get on board

      The settlement follows a similar move by the New York Attorney General Letitia James last month, who said her state would not appeal the merger decision. 

      “We are gratified that the process has yielded commitments from T-Mobile to create jobs in Rochester and engage in robust national diversity initiatives that will connect our communities with good jobs and technology,” James said at the time. 

      “We hope to work with all parties to ensure that consumers get the best pricing and service possible, that networks are built out throughout our state, and that good-paying jobs are created here in New York.”

      The merger between T-Mobile and Sprint is now facing less opposition from regulators. Officials from several states have accepted concessions from the two...

      Mercedes-Benz recalls Smart Fortwo Electric Drive vehicle

      The high-voltage battery may fail

      Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) is recalling one model year 2019 Smart Fortwo Electric Drive vehicle.

      A welded joint within the high-voltage battery main cell conductors may detach and interrupt electrical contact, resulting in sudden battery failure. The detached weld may also cause an electrical arc which can ignite inside the battery cells.

      If the high-voltage battery fails, the vehicle may stall, increasing the risk of a crash. In addition, an electrical arc inside the battery increases the risk of a fire.

      What to do

      MBUSA will notify the owner, and a dealer will replace the high-voltage battery free of charge.

      The recall is expected to begin April 24, 2020.

      Owners may contact MBUSA customer service at (800) 367-6372.

      Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) is recalling one model year 2019 Smart Fortwo Electric Drive vehicle. A welded joint within the high-voltage battery main cell...

      Dole Fresh Vegetables recalls H-E-B-brand Tuscan Herb Salad Kit

      The product may contain peanut, wheat, soy and tree nuts, allergens not declared on the label

      Dole Fresh Vegetables is recalling H-E-B-brand Tuscan Herb Salad Kits.

      The product may contain peanut, wheat, soy and tree nuts, allergens not declared on the label.

      No illnesses or allergic reactions are reported, to date.

      The following product, sold at H-E-B stores across Texas, is being recalled:

      Product Name and UPCCode on PackagingBest-By Date
      H-E-B-branded Tuscan Herb Chopped Salad
      0-41220-40989-1
      B055014 and B055015MAR 11 2020

      The product code and best-by date are located on the top right corner of the front of the salad bag.

      What to do

      Customers who purchased the recalled product should not consume it, and call the Dole consumer center toll-free at (800) 356-3111, 24 hours a day for a refund.

      Dole Fresh Vegetables is recalling H-E-B-brand Tuscan Herb Salad Kits. The product may contain peanut, wheat, soy and tree nuts, allergens not declared ...

      Ford issues another recall for model year 2019 Ford Rangers

      The HVAC blower motor could overheat, melt or smoke

      Ford Motor Company is recalling about 5,800 model year 2019 Ford Rangers.

      The recalled vehicles had the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) blower motor replaced in an earlier recall.

      The replacement part used for that service may have been built with an improper clearance between an electrical terminal and the conductive base-plate slot that could result in a resistive electrical short.

      This condition can increase the risk of the HVAC blower motor overheating, melting, smoking or causing a fire.

      Ford says it has not received any reports of accident, injury or fire.

      What to do

      Ford will contact owners, and dealers will inspect the HVAC blower-motor date code. Blower motors built within the suspect time frame will be replaced free of charge.

      Owners may contact Ford customer service at (866) 436-7332. Ford's reference number for this recall is 20S12.

      Ford Motor Company is recalling about 5,800 model year 2019 Ford Rangers. The recalled vehicles had the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC)...

      SEC directs DC staff to work from home due to coronavirus

      The agency is the latest employer to take steps to mitigate the spread of the outbreak

      The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is one of the first government agencies to request that all of its Washington, DC personnel work from home as a means to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus.

      A soldier at nearby Ft. Myer, Va. tested positive for the virus, but the directive was the result of an SEC employee being diagnosed with the illness on Monday.

      "Late this afternoon, the SEC was informed that a Washington, DC Headquarters employee was treated for respiratory symptoms today (Monday)," an agency spokesperson said in a statement. "The employee was informed by a physician that the employee may have the coronavirus and was referred for testing."

      Because of that, the SEC then directed all employees to work from home this week. Telecommuting has quickly become a means for companies and organizations to deal with the virus.

      Amazon, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and other major corporations have encouraged employees to opt for telecommuting. All have headquarters in Washington state, where the most U.S. virus cases have been confirmed.

      Expanding the policy

      Google took the added step this week of expanding the work-at-home suggestion to all offices in North America. Other major employers, such as Microsoft, Lyft, and Box, have taken additional steps to reduce the number of people in the office.

      Lyft and Uber have said they plan to compensate their independent contractor drivers if they get the virus or can’t work because they are quarantined. 

      The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has urged employers to have strategies ready to protect their employees. Tech companies, especially, have had an easier time shifting to off-site work.

      Starbucks canceled its stockholders’ meeting last week and instead scheduled an online meeting so that shareholders could participate from remote locations.

      The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is one of the first government agencies to request that all of its Washington, DC personnel work from home as...

      CDC warns consumers about listeria outbreak connected to enoki mushrooms

      The agency advises consumers to return the tainted products or throw them away

      While the world around us is swirling with coronavirus-related news, there’s also reports that a new listeria contamination connected to enoki mushrooms has caused four deaths and the hospitalization of 36 others across 17 states.

      The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says the recalled mushrooms are distributed by Sun Hong Foods and have “the potential to be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes, a bacterium which can cause life-threatening illness or death.” The agency advises consumers to take extra precautions, even if the mushrooms do not look or smell spoiled.

      Advice for consumers

      The CDC provided guidelines that consumers, food service operators, and retailers should all take. That advice is listed below.

      • Do not eat, serve, or sell any recalled enoki mushrooms distributed by Sun Hong Foods.

        • Check your refrigerator for recalled enoki mushrooms and return them to the purchase location or throw them away.

        • Do not eat any food made with recalled enoki mushrooms, even if some was consumed and no one became sick.

        • If the packaging says “Product of Korea,” it’s best to avoid the product until investigators determine if additional products are linked to illness.

      • Wash and sanitize any surfaces and containers that may have come in contact with the recalled enoki mushrooms. Listeria can survive in refrigerated temperatures and can easily spread to other foods and surfaces.

      • Call your healthcare provider if you have consumed recalled enoki mushrooms and are experiencing symptoms of a Listeria infection.

      Any consumer who’s purchased any Sun Hong Foods Inc. mushrooms and has questions can contact the company at 1-323-597-1112. Monday - Friday 8:00 AM - 4:00 PM and Saturday 8:00 AM to 12:00 PM PST.

      While the world around us is swirling with coronavirus-related news, there’s also reports that a new listeria contamination connected to enoki mushrooms ha...

      Fintech disputer Robinhood under scrutiny after trading platform failures

      Subscribers couldn’t access accounts during the market’s wild swings

      On days when the stock market is plunging and on days when it’s soaring, stock traders want their trading platform to be rock solid. Unfortunately, the 10 million subscribers to the free trading app Robinhood have encountered system crashes on three of the most volatile trading days of the last six trading days.

      On Monday, when the Dow Jones Industrial Average suffered its worst point loss in history and all the major averages finished more than 7 percent lower, Robinhood subscribers reported that their accounts were inaccessible for part of the trading day.

      That followed outages on back-to-back trading days the week before. One of the days was the heaviest trading day of the year. Monday’s outage reportedly began right around the time Wall Street opened for business.

      “Trading is currently down on Robinhood and we’re investigating the issue,” Robinhood tweeted shortly after the opening bell. “We are experiencing issues with equities, options and crypto trading. We are working to resolve this issue as soon as possible.” 

      An hour later the company tweeted that the platform had partially recovered and only the fractional trades service was still down. But on Twitter, a number of Robinhood subscribers continued to complain and post pictures of their phones showing errors from their trading apps. 

      Got rid of commissions on trades

      Robinhood is one of the emerging class of fintech companies that are disrupting the financial services industry. If you’re a customer of another online trading platform like ETrade and TD Ameritrade, you can thank Robinhood for the fact that you no longer pay commissions on stock trades. 

      The industry almost universally dropped those fees after Robinhood started offering its subscribers commission-free trades. 

      The company’s first outage occurred Monday, March 2 when the market turned in its best-ever one-day performance. Subscribers, however, were unable to jump on the bandwagon. 

      Focus on infrastructure

      The platform suffered technical problems the following day when stocks tanked, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average giving up 1,100 points. In a March 3 blog post, the company’s founders admitted that the back-to-back outages were unacceptable and attributed the breakdown to stress on its infrastructure.

      “Our team is continuing to work to improve the resilience of our infrastructure to meet the heightened load we have been experiencing,” the founders wrote. “We’re simultaneously working to reduce the interdependencies in our overall infrastructure. We’re also investing in additional redundancies in our infrastructure.”

      But those steps proved insufficient to head off another glitch on Monday, March 10. The technology website TechCrunch reports that Robinhood plans to compensate those who were affected with a three-month subscription to Robinhood Gold, which normally costs $5 a month, calling it a “first step.”

      Some subscribers apparently have something more substantial in mind. CNBC reports that a Twitter account named “Robinhood Class Action” has gained more than 7,000 followers.

      On days when the stock market is plunging and on days when it’s soaring, stock traders want their trading platform to be rock solid. Unfortunately, the 10...

      Dick’s Sporting Goods to cease sale of firearms in over 400 more stores

      The move follows similar actions taken by the retailer after a Florida school shooting in 2018

      Consumers looking to buy firearms at Dick’s Sporting Goods retail locations will have a harder time as the year goes on. The retailer announced in an earnings call that it will be ceasing gun sales at 440 more stores in 2020. 

      The move follows similar actions that Dick’s took back in 2018 in the wake of a school shooting in Parkland, Florida that claimed the lives of 17 people. Following that tragic event, the company decided to strictly require that customers be 21 to purchase a gun, and it pulled high-capacity magazines from store shelves.

      “We support and respect the Second Amendment, and we recognize and appreciate that the vast majority of gun owners in this country are responsible, law-abiding citizens. But we have to help solve the problem that’s in front of us,” the company said in a statement at the time. 

      Gun safety lapses

      Dick’s decision to pull back on gun sales comes at a time when gun safety is taking more of the public spotlight. Despite several mass shooting incidents that have taken place around the country in recent years, a recent study shows that consumers can still be cavalier when it comes to safely storing guns in their own homes. 

      A survey of consumers in Washington found that 40 percent of gun owners did not lock up their guns at home; an additional 15 percent kept those firearms loaded and within reach of children also living in the home. 

      “Guardians might think that training adolescent or older children is enough to keep them safe, that training means they don’t have to lock their guns. Unfortunately, a lot of adolescents are at high risk of suicide, and unlocked guns add to that riks -- regardless of training,” said researcher Aisha King from the University of Washington.

      Consumers looking to buy firearms at Dick’s Sporting Goods retail locations will have a harder time as the year goes on. The retailer announced in an earni...

      Families who eat more meals together have stronger bonds

      Researchers say having more communal meal times can also encourage healthy eating

      While recent studies have explored different ways for parents to encourage healthy eating, including leading by example and getting kids involved during mealtime, a new study found that family meals are equally as important. 

      According to the researchers, having regular family meals can work to not only improve the family dynamic, but it can also help kids incorporate healthier options into their diets. 

      “There are thousands of individual studies that examine the impact of family meals on nutrition and family behavior, but this new meta-analyses looks at the relationship between family meal frequency and family functioning outcomes,” said researcher David Fikes. “It is particularly fitting that as we celebrate National Nutrition Month, we can confirm that family meals are a valuable contributor of improved nutrition and family functioning.” 

      Making healthy choices 

      The researchers conducted a review of previous studies, all of which had been designed to understand the benefits associated with family meals. 

      “This study employed a comprehensive approach to explore the direction and magnitude of the relationship between exposure to family meals and dietary and family functioning outcomes in children,” said researcher Shannon M. Robson, PhD. 

      The two biggest takeaways from the study were that family meals encouraged healthy eating for young ones and facilitated stronger family bonds. The study revealed that kids were more likely to eat more fruits and vegetables when family dinners were a consistent part of their routines. 

      Similarly, more family mealtimes made communication stronger and improved the way families approached problem-solving. These findings were so significant that Fikes believes that families should actively commit to trying to eat together on a regular basis. 

      “Even more impressive than the positive behavior changes we have seen over the past five years is that 89 percent of Americans believe it’s important for families to have as many meals as possible each week, and 84 percent are willing to commit to doing so throughout the year,” said Fikes. 

      While recent studies have explored different ways for parents to encourage healthy eating, including leading by example and getting kids involved during me...

      Pepsico is purchasing energy drink maker Rockstar

      The acquisition strengthens Pepsico’s position in the fast-growing energy drink category

      As consumers’ thirst for carbonated beverages continues its decline, Pepsico, the maker of Pepsi and Mountain Dew, is moving to fortify its beverage portfolio with a major energy drink brand.

      The food and beverage giant has announced the acquisition of Rockstar Energy Beverages for $3.85 billion. 

      "As we work to be more consumer-centric and capitalize on rising demand in the functional beverage space, this highly strategic acquisition will enable us to leverage PepsiCo's capabilities to both accelerate Rockstar's performance and unlock our ability to expand in the category with existing brands such as Mountain Dew," said PepsiCo Chairman and CEO Ramon Laguarta. 

      Pepsico already has a relationship with Rockstar because it distributes it to retailers along with the company’s other beverages. The acquisition improves Pepsico’s energy beverage position in relation to Coca-Cola, which owns a major stake in Monster Beverages.

      "Over time, we expect to capture our fair share of this fast-growing, highly profitable category and create meaningful new partnerships in the energy space," Laguarta said.

      Active lifestyle consumers

      Rockstar has been around since its founding in 2001, marketing its product as a beverage for consumers who lead an active lifestyle, such as athletes. The company says its products come in over 30 flavors and are sold at convenience and grocery stores worldwide.

      With the addition of Rockstar, PepsiCo's energy drink portfolio will include Mountain Dew's Kickstart, GameFuel, and AMP. Russ Weiner, Rockstar's founder, says the acquisition is the continuation of what he says has been a strong partnership since 2009.

      "PepsiCo shares our competitive spirit and will invest in growing our brand even further,” he said. “I'm proud of what we built and how we've changed the game in the energy space." 

      Energy beverages are formulated to increase mental alertness and physical performances for consumers by stepping up caffeine content, along with other additives like vitamins and herbal supplements. Energy drinks are especially popular among young consumers, making them attractive to legacy beverage manufacturers looking for long-term growth.

      Health concerns

      The products have been the subject of concern by health officials as they’ve grown in popularity. A 2019 study by researchers at the American Heart Association cautioned consumers to use the products in moderation.

      The study found that drinking 32 ounces of an energy drink can affect the heart’s normal functioning and also dramatically shift consumers’ blood pressure.

      “Energy drinks are readily accessible and commonly consumed by a large number of teens and young adults, including college students,” researcher Kate O’Dell said when the study was released. “Understanding how these drinks affect the heart is extremely important.”

      As consumers’ thirst for carbonated beverages continues its decline, Pepsico, the maker of Pepsi and Mountain Dew, is moving to fortify its beverage portfo...