Wyden: Federal Legislation, Not State Laws, Needed to Fight Spam

WASHINGTON — Sen. Ron Wyden, D-OR, told attendees at the Direct Marketing Association's 2003 Government Affairs Conference here yesterday that the industry needs federal legislation to combat spam.

In April, Wyden and Sen. Conrad Burns, R-MT, introduced the Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing bill, or CAN-SPAM Act of 2003.

The CAN-SPAM Act would give the Federal Trade Commission enforcement authority. It provides for state attorneys general to sue on behalf of residents, and for Internet service providers to sue businesses that send unsolicited commercial e-mail across their networks.

“You cannot have a crazy quilt of state laws,” Wyden said. “Spam and the Internet do not know state borders, and that's why it's so important that we do this from a national standpoint.”

Wyden also discussed his Internet tax legislation that he introduced along with Rep. Christopher Cox, R-CA, in January to extend the Internet Tax Freedom Act, which also was authored by Wyden and Cox and enacted in 1998. This law prohibits taxes on Internet access; taxation by multiple states on products purchased over the Internet; and discriminatory taxes that treat Internet purchases differently from other types of sales. This law expired in October 2001.

Cox and Wyden also wrote the Internet Tax Non-Discrimination Act, which President Bush signed into law in November 2001. This law extended the ban on Internet taxes until Nov. 1, 2003.

The Fair Credit Reporting Act reauthorization issue also was discussed. On Jan. 1, 2004, the act's state pre-emption provisions expire, meaning state and local politicians could set their own regulations governing the collection and dissemination of credit information. Each of the more than 30,000 jurisdictions nationwide could begin determining how individual credit information is handled.

In an informal Q&A session, Jerry Cerasale, DMA senior vice president, government affairs, said that having all the states set their own regulations concerning information flow on credit “would be a disaster for the credit system in the United States … the amount of people in the United States who would not be able to receive credit would increase dramatically.”

Cerasale said the DMA is working on this issue with several groups in Washington. He also said he contacted Zoe Strickland, the chief privacy officer of the U.S. Postal Service, to get the agency involved in the issue.

“The USPS cannot and will not lobby, but they can educate, and tell people what would happen if this happens, and what would happen to postal volumes if this happens,” Cerasale said.

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