Shop.org forms Policy Advisory Group to tackle spyware and other issues

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Online retail community Shop.org is expanding its capabilities to include a specific focus on advocacy and public policy to take on such issues as spyware, card-not-present fees and net neutrality.

The association's Board of Directors unanimously voted to broaden the Shop.org mission to include advocacy at its Board meeting last month. As a part of the initiative, Shop.org is creating a Policy Advisory Group - to be comprised of yet-to-be-chosen online retail executives from the Shop.org member roster - to identify potential issues for online retailers and provide guidance in advocacy efforts. Liz Oesterle, vice president, government relations counsel at the National Retail Federation will oversee this new arm of Shop.org.

Shop.org's initial advocacy agenda will expand upon the lobbying efforts of its parent, the National Retail Federation, on issues such as spyware.

"There have been a number of spyware bills that have been in Congress and they seem to be morphing into a total privacy area," said Scott Silverman, executive director at Shop.org, Washington DC. "These new bills would require an affirmative action and opt-in by consumers to track any personal information or behavior on a retailer's site. It could significantly interfere with the customer experience."

Another major issue that the new advocacy group aims to address is the card-not-present interchange fees from Visa and MasterCard.

"Online retailers pay the highest fees, and for those fees they are supposed to be getting additional fraud protection, but this isn't how it has been working," Silverman added. "The consumer will never have to pay more than $50 for a fraudulent order and usually pay nothing, while online retailers will have to incur the cost of any merchandise that they lose."

Other issues that Shop.org will explore include click fraud, patent trolling, and net neutrality. Additionally, Shop.org will continue its work with NRF's Association for Retail Technology Standards, aiming to create benchmarks and guidelines for the industry.

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