While he voted against the federal omnibus bill last month, last week, U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Fla., said he was glad that it contained two proposals he has championed on Capitol Hill.
The omnibus contained the congressman‘s “Reporting Attacks from Nations Selected for Oversight and Monitoring Web Attacks and Ransomware from Enemies (RANSOMWARE) Act” which the full U.S. House passed without objection in July.
The bill “will strengthen the federal government’s efforts to respond to recent ransomware and other cyber-attacks from foreign adversaries, such as China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea” and “amend and update the U.S. SAFE WEB Act of 2006, which first enabled cooperation with foreign law enforcement agencies on international consumer protection issues, to require the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to report on cross-border complaints involving ransomware.”
“We have seen an increase in cyber-crimes targeting Americans across the country, from hospitals, law enforcement entities, to even run-of-the-mill businesses in our communities. Congress should be better equipped with information that the Federal Trade Commission learns of by working with foreign law enforcement agencies, and as a result of receiving cross-border complaints that involve ransomware and cyber security threats, so that we may work to make America more resilient,” said Bilirakis last week.
While Bilirakis introduced the bill in July 2021, there was no companion measure over in the U.S. Senate.
Back in November, U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., and Bilirakis were able to get their “ Integrity, Notification, and Fairness in Online Retail Marketplaces for Consumers (INFORM Consumers) Act” through the House.
The bill “directs online marketplaces to verify the identity of high-volume third-party sellers of consumer products,” which, supporters insist, “will help deter organized retail crime rings who seek to sell stolen or counterfeit goods online” and “will also benefit consumers by providing them with basic identification and contact information for the high-volume third-party sellers.”
“For too long, criminals have raked in profits by selling dangerous, counterfeit, and stolen products online. Consumers deserve to shop with the peace of mind that they get what they pay for. Today, we took a stand for consumers and said enough is enough,” said Schakowsky when the House passed the the proposal. “The INFORM Consumers Act, which I introduced with my friend Rep. Gus Bilirakis, passed the House with bipartisan support, and will protect consumers and legitimate businesses by holding online marketplaces accountable. We must protect Americans online. I urge the Senate to swiftly pass this bill.”
“This pro-consumer legislation enacts uniform, nationwide rules to promote safety, increase transparency, and provide greater accountability for online sales. It will provide a layer of enhanced protections for consumers from stolen and counterfeit goods without adding undue burdens on small mom-and-pop businesses,” said Bilirakis. “This bill is a win-win for consumers and legitimate businesses in the online marketplace.”
The congressman’s office offered some of the reasons as to why he championed the bill.
“Along with the rise in popularity of online marketplaces like Amazon, Facebook, and eBay, there has been an increase of stolen, counterfeit, and dangerous consumer products offered for sale online to consumers. Currently, it is relatively easy for third-party sellers to go onto an online marketplace, create an account, sell high volumes of illicit goods to unwitting consumers, and then shut down the account and disappear before facing any accountability,” Bilirakis’ office noted. “The INFORM Consumers Act would require online marketplaces to verify the identity of their high-volume third-party sellers of consumer products by obtaining and verifying information including the seller’s name, tax ID, bank account information, and contact information. The bill would also direct online marketplaces to ensure that consumers have sufficient information so they can identify and contact a high-volume third-party seller who has sold them consumer products. The online marketplace would also have to provide a way for customers to report to the marketplace suspicious marketplace activity such as the selling of stolen or counterfeit goods.”
Over in the Senate, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., championed the bill. Nine senators lined up to back the bill including U.S. Sens. Christopher Coons, D-Del., Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Marco Rubio, R-Fla. The bill saw little progress, being stuck before the U.S. Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee since March 2021. It was also included in the omnibus.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, AFL-CIO, the Fraternal Order of Police, U.S. PIRG, the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, the Toy Association, the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributers, the Coalition to Protect America’s Small Sellers and many other groups backed the proposal.
Bilirakis voted against the omnibus despite including the two proposals in it.
“While the congressman could not, in good conscience, vote for the final spending package due to the damage that continued reckless spending will have on his constituents, he is pleased to see the consumer protection measures he has worked on over the past two years as the lead Republican on the Consumer Protection and Commerce Subcommittee finally become law,” his office noted.
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