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Mr. Speaker, as chairman of the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade, I rise today in strong support of H.R. 6131, a bill to reauthorize the U.S. SAFE Web Act of 2006.
I would like to thank Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Upton for his leadership on this important issue, as well as Ranking Member Waxman. But a special thank you also goes out to my good friend and lead coauthor of H.R. 6131, our subcommittee's ranking member, Mr. Butterfield of North Carolina, for his strong bipartisan support.
When it comes to the future of electronic commerce, consumer trust and online privacy are trending topics that Americans care very deeply about. Today, the Internet serves billions of users worldwide with e-commerce in the U.S. topping $200 billion last year for the first time and up a remarkable 15 percent so far this year. But lurking online are hackers, cyberthieves, and even organized crime rings.
As someone who is deeply involved in online privacy issues, as well as consumer protection, I'm very concerned that e-commerce will cease to grow and flourish if Americans lose faith in their ability to be protected from online predators, jeopardizing future innovation, as well as our Nation's fragile economic recovery.
One important tool in combating crossborder fraud, spam, and spyware is this act, which is set to expire next year. H.R. 6131 reauthorizes important crime-fighting and consumer protection law for another 7 years.
By any measure, the U.S. SAFE Web Act has been extremely effective, allowing the Federal Trade Commission to better protect U.S. consumers from fraud, deception, spam and spyware, and crossborder cases involving threats originating both domestically and abroad. And to give you an idea of just how well it's working, no opposition to reauthorizing the law has been expressed from either the business community or by advocacy groups.
Most importantly, the U.S. SAFE Web Act enhances the FTC's investigative and enforcement functions by authorizing information sharing with foreign enforcement agencies, something the commission may not do without express authorization. The act only allows information sharing with countries whose law on data sharing is substantially similar to that governing the FTC, and the FTC may share data only under conditions where the information will be treated confidentially and a country will reciprocate information sharing with the FTC. Clearly, we would be fighting an uphill battle if these critically important consumer protections were not in place.
About a decade ago, the Federal Trade Commission began to highlight the growing problems that it encountered in effectively combating Internet scams and fraud directed at American citizens by foreign operators, oftentimes involving organized crime rings. By 2005, an estimated 20 percent of consumer complaints the FTC received involved fraud originating outside of the U.S., costing American consumers hundreds of millions of dollars each year.
In order to expand its ability to effectively fight online fraud, the FTC sent Congress legislative recommendations in 2005 seeking additional authorities. Without objection, Congress passed the U.S. SAFE Web Act on December 6, 2006, and it was signed into law 2 weeks later by President Bush. For American consumers, the U.S. SAFE Web Act has been a clear success to date, and it should be reauthorized before its expiration next year.
Mr. Speaker, I strongly urge the passage of H.R. 6131, and I reserve the balance of my time.
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Mrs. BONO MACK. Mr. Speaker, in closing, I just would like to say that today, with nearly 1.5 billion credit cards now in use in the U.S., nearly everyone has a stake in making certain that the FTC has the powers that it needs to combat cross-border fraud, spam, and spyware.
Rather than give the FTC more power, the U.S. SAFE WEB Act is simply giving the FTC the tools it needs to carry out its mission more effectively; and it's done so without increasing the cost to American taxpayers, without any new rulemaking, and without any new investigative authority. Reauthorizing the U.S. SAFE WEB Act as soon as possible will avoid disrupting ongoing investigations, allowing the FTC to continue to pursue cross-border fraud complaints and to continue important information-sharing agreements with foreign law enforcement agencies.
Again, let me just emphasize that this is a critically important consumer protection bill, it enjoys broad bipartisan support, it doesn't cost any additional money, and the clock is ticking. The law needs to be reauthorized now.
It's good for American consumers, and it's good for the future of e-commerce. It sends an important signal to the rest of the world that online crooks, no matter where they're located, will be tracked down and prosecuted.
Mr. Speaker, I urge the adoption of H.R. 6131, and I yield back the balance of my time.
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