Calling it vitally important to efforts by the federal government to fight online fraud, Congresswoman Mary Bono Mack (CA-45), Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade, and Ranking Member G.K. Butterfield (NC-1) today introduced bipartisan legislation (H.R. 6131) to reauthorize the U.S. SAFE WEB Act of 2006.
Passed unanimously by the House and signed into law by President Bush, the U.S. SAFE WEB Act -- set to expire next year -- has become an extremely effective tool used by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to combat cross-border fraud, spam and spyware.
Pursuant to the Act, the FTC issued a report in 2009, "The U.S. SAFE WEB Act: The First Three Years," detailing its use and day-to-day experience with the authority granted by the law.
Over a three-year period, the FTC received more than a quarter of a million cross-border complaints by American consumers. The FTC also reported that it shared confidential information in response to 38 requests from 14 foreign agencies in six countries, resulting in numerous enforcement proceedings.
"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," Congresswoman 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 as well as our nation's fragile economic recovery."
"The enhanced authority provided by the U.S. SAFE WEB Act has empowered the FTC to better protect American consumers through robust cross-border information sharing, investigative assistance, and coalition building with foreign consumer protection agencies," said Congressman Butterfield. "This authority has been highly effective in protecting the American people from international frauds and should remain part of the FTC's fraud fighting tool kit."
The U.S. SAFE WEB amends the FTC Act, authorizing the Commission to:
* Pursue and combat fraud involving international activity that harms U.S. consumers;
* Share information involving cross border fraud with foreign consumer protection agencies, subject to important safeguards;
* Protect from public disclosure confidential information received from foreign consumer protection agencies that otherwise would not be shared;
* Seek redress on behalf of foreign as well as U.S. consumers victimized by U.S.-based wrong-doers; and finally
* Make referrals to the U.S. Attorney General for criminal prosecution when the FTC obtains evidence of conduct that violates U.S. criminal law.
As leaders of the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade, Bono Mack and Butterfield have worked closely over the past year and a half on a number of initiatives to better protect American consumers. A markup on their legislation (H.R. 6131) is expected soon.