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Thursday, July 26, 2012

Renewing the Safe Web Act

Bipartisan legislation calling for renewal of the Undertaking Spam, Spyware, and Fraud Enforcement with Enforcers beyond Borders Act of 2006 (known as the U.S. Safe Web Act) was introduced in Congress July 17, 2012. The act, which enhances the Federal Trade Commission's ability to fight e-commerce fraud, is scheduled to expire in 2013 if it is not renewed.

Rep. Mary Bono Mack, R-Calif., Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade, as well as the committee's ranking member, Rep. G.K. Butterfield, D-N.C., co-sponsored H.R. 6131 to renew the U.S. Safe Web Act.

"Today, with nearly 1.5 billion credit cards now in use in the United States – and e-commerce topping more than $200 billion a year – nearly everyone in America has a stake in making certain the FTC has the powers it needs to combat cross-border fraud, spam and spyware," Bono Mack said. "Frankly, I'm very concerned that e-commerce will cease to grow and flourish if consumers lose faith in their ability to be protected from online predators, jeopardizing future innovation."

Necessary tools

The new legislation was presented just days after Hugh Stevenson, Deputy Director for International Consumer Protection, called for renewal of the act in testimony before the committee. "To continue to protect American consumers in a global economy, the FTC believes it is critical that Congress reauthorize the law enforcement tools provided by the U.S. Safe Web Act," he said.

Under the U.S. Safe Web Act, the FTC can share information with and assist foreign law enforcement agencies in investigating consumer fraud. This includes compelling documents and testimony from U.S. citizens to aid overseas investigations. The act also enables the FTC to protect the confidentiality of information collected from foreign sources and enhances its ability to investigate and litigate in both domestic and cross-border transactions.

Persistent threats

Stevenson said the act is key to "a culture of mutual assistance" that leads to greater results than the various agencies around the world could achieve alone. However, he added that problems with cross-border transactions persist and that between 2006 and 2011, the FTC received nearly 500,000 complaints from U.S. consumers concerning transactions with foreign companies.

Stevenson also pointed out that FTC statistics show that for the last three years, 13 percent of fraud complaints are cross-border, but the agency believes this estimate is low because consumers often don't realize the company they are complaining about is based overseas. end of article

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