May 2008 - Government Affairs

Bill’s Notes From The Hill

By Bill McClellan

The nation’s capital is hopping with issues important to e-retailers. Here are five quick tips regarding things you should know:

1. The FTC Beef-up Proposal: Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-HI) of the Senate Commerce Committee has introduced plans that would double the FTC’s current budget over the next seven years. If successful, the bill would expand the Commission’s authority to litigate civil actions involving the FTC, increase the Commission’s authority to recover civil penalties for violations, and allow the FTC to hold entities accountable that aid or abet one another in violating the law. For good corporate citizens, not a major cause for alarm, but the devil is always in the details.

2. Net Neutrality Round Two: There are many facets to the net neutrality debate. However, the bottom line for e-retailers is that Internet service providers (ISPs), such as AT&T and Comcast, want to “cable-ize” online video. That is to say, they intend to change the status quo of the Internet to be replaced by a system in which e-retailers would be charged a premium to reach their customers while retaining the right to degrade or deny the ability to do so at all. After a lull in the debate, things have heated up again with the FCC holding public hearings on documented instances of ISPs blocking users of the BitTorrent application from receiving data they had requested (including video). Similarly, on the Hill, Representative Ed Markey (D-MA) has introduced legislation in response to this bad behavior.

3. Consumer Product Safety: Last year’s high-profile consumer product recalls resulted in the passage of legislation in both the House and Senate overhauling the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). Legislators are currently working to reconcile their differences, but e-retailers should expect to see big changes soon. The CPSC stands to increase staff and get a bigger budget with stiffer standards and labeling requirements for children’s toys, as well as increased fines for defective products and untimely disclosure of problems to the Commission.

4. Behavioral Advertising: Be­havioral advertising is one of the hottest areas of industry growth, allowing e-retailers and others in the online space to have the ability to better serve relevant marketing information to potential customers. Consumer groups and the FTC have taken notice. Last fall, the FTC began an examination of behavioral advertising practices at a public workshop. Breaking from tradition, without issuing a report identifying harm, the FTC requested the industry provide guidance in the form of self-regulation. Similarly, state legislatures have begun to look at the issue following legislation proposed in the New York General Assembly.

5. ERA on the Hill: On May 20th, Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) will be keynote speaker at ERA’s Government Affairs Conference Fly-In here in Washington, D.C. After the keynote and issue sessions, the industry’s leadership will go to Capitol Hill to help educate members of Congress on these and other issues affecting the industry and as a result, your bottom line. Make plans now to attend by contacting me at the ERA office. If you can’t make it, be sure to tell your colleagues to join us, as we advocate on behalf of the e-retail community.

Bill McClellan is ERA’s vice president of government affairs. He can be reached at (703) 908-1032, or via e-mail at [email protected].


No Comments

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a comment