FTC Gets Foreign Aid from Hill

The Federal Trade Commission has been reauthorized through 2008 and given new weapons in the fight against cross-border fraud. The Senate passed the bill by unanimous consent Wednesday on its way out the door for the Rosh Hashana break.

The bill as passed had been amended by Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) and a number of co-sponsors to give the commission more power to combat such fraud in an age of global, high-speed, wireless marketing for which borders are increasingly transparent. "This legislation is crucial to the FTC's ability to protect American consumers," said McCain in a statement.

The bill empowers the FTC to exchange information with international agencies, work with Justice to "seek redress for American consumers in foreign courts; make criminal referrals to the DoJ for cross-border criminal activity," and otherwise strengthen its relationship with international consumer protection agencies.

The FTC will also be empowered to lend its expertise to other domestic law enforcement agencies and get paid for its services.

In another potential economic boon to the agency, it will now be able to accept donations of books for its library and to use volunteers, not to mention accept the bequest from some do not call list-loving eccentric millionaire.

According to the bill, "in furtherance of its functions, the Commission may accept, hold, administer, and use unconditional gifts, donations, and bequests of real, personal, and other property," as well as gifts of voluntary, uncompensated services, so long as there is not conflict of interest.

According to congressional liaison Kim Vandecar, that provision was just to bring the agency in line with others, like the FCC, Office of Government Ethics, and Consumer Product Safety Commission, which have had no such prohibitions on gifts. "We do a lot of internet surfs for consumer protection fraud issues," she says, "sometimes it would be nice to use volunteers from AARP."

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.