Today, the House Energy and Commerce Committee unanimously approved bipartisan legislation by Congresswoman Mary Bono Mack (CA-45) and Congressman G.K. Butterfield (NC-1) to reauthorize the U.S. SAFE WEB Act, extending important consumer protections to all Americans. The SAFE WEB Act is a critically important law used by the Federal Trade Commission to combat cross-border fraud, spam and spyware. Following the vote on her bill, which now heads to the House floor for action, Congresswoman Bono Mack released the following statement:
"When it comes to the future of electronic commerce, consumer trust and online privacy are search terms we should "bookmark' and follow very closely as policymakers.
"Even though it serves billions of users worldwide -- with e-commerce in the United States topping $200 billion last year for the first time and up 15 percent so far this year -- the Internet remains a work in progress. Still, in just over 25 years, the Internet has not only changed our lives, it has become "part' of our lives. But today, do Americans really believe enough is being done today to protect them from online fraud?
"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 as well as our nation's fragile economic recovery. By any measure, the U.S. SAFE WEB Act has been a clear success and should be reauthorized before its expiration next year."
About a decade ago, the Federal Trade Commission began to highlight the growing problems it encountered in effectively combating Internet scams and fraud directed at American citizens by foreign operators, often-times involving organized crime rings.
By 2005, an estimated 20 percent of consumer complaints the FTC received involved fraud originating outside of the United States. According to an analysis of those complaints from the Consumer Sentinel Network, Americans suffered annual losses to foreign operators, totaling nearly $220 million.
The FTC subsequently identified severe limitations in its authority to combat cross-border fraud, spam and spyware relative to that of other U.S. regulators. The biggest roadblock to protecting consumers was the Commission's lack of authority to share information with foreign law enforcement agencies.
First approved by Congress in 2006, the U.S. SAFE WEB Act authorized the FTC to:
* Share information involving cross border fraud with foreign consumer protection agencies;
* Secure and protect confidential information from foreign consumer protection agencies from public disclosure that otherwise would not be shared by many foreign law enforcement agencies;
* Pursue fraud-based legal action by amending the "unfair or deceptive acts or practices" to include acts involving foreign commerce or material misconduct within the United States;
* Seek redress on behalf of foreign consumers victimized by U.S.-based wrong-doers; and finally
* Make criminal referrals for cross-border criminal activity when violations of FTC law also violate U.S. criminal law.
"Today, with nearly 1.5 billion credit cards in use in the United States, nearly everyone in America has a stake in making certain that the Federal Trade Commission has the powers it needs to combat cross-border fraud, spam and spyware," Congresswoman Bono Mack added. "Congress needs to reauthorize the U.S. SAFE WEB Act this year. It's good for American consumers. It's good for the future of e-commerce. And it's the right thing to do for our nation and our friends around the world."