Good morning. Welcome to the Federal Trade Commission's public workshop on consumer protection in the global electronic market place.
When we address issues concerning the global electronic market place, we want to consider all the ways the Internet facilitates commerce - ranging from the simple placement of an ad to completion of an entire transaction on line.
As most of you know, that market is expected to grow rapidly. Between now and 2003, the value of e-commerce worldwide is expected to increase from about $70 billion to about $1.4 trillion. American consumer spending on retail goods alone is expected to increase from about $18.1 billion to about $108 billion.
But numbers alone fail to illuminate fully the revolutionary changes in global commerce about to take place.
In his exceptionally fine recent book, "The Lexus and the Olive Tree," Tom Friedman has some things to say about the Internet that are especially relevant to the discussions we will be having over the next several days. Friedman addresses his remarks to sellers, but much of what he says has applicability to the welfare of buyers as well:
As we increasingly move into a world where the Internet defines commerce, this push for common global standards is going to become unusually intensified, for one very simple reason; from the minute you decide to do business on the Internet as a retailer or service provider, from the first moment you open your Web site, you are a global company - whether you are in India, Italy or Indianapolis. To do business on the Internet is by definition to be global. . . .And you'd better be able to assure customers that you can ship your goods in a timely and safe fashion, that their credit card will be safe in your site, their money can be transferred according to international standards, laws and best practices, and that all accounting and commercial issues will be dealt with according to international norms.
As the Friedman quote indicates, this market place is different. It is true that consumers have had broad access to imported goods at least since the merchant ships of Venice first returned from the Orient. But now, these global transactions will not be limited to sophisticated merchants. American and foreign producers - large and small - can enter international markets almost effortlessly and consumers will have far wider access to desirable products.
But what if the products don't arrive, or the wrong product is delivered, or somehow the advertising, marketing or sale by the seller is inconsistent with the laws of the consumer's country. Should an American firm that compares the merits of different diet colas be subject to prosecution in northern Europe for violating a law prohibiting comparative advertising? Should a clothing store be subject to prosecution in a Muslim country for exposing a woman's arms? Should a toy store be subject to prohibitions on advertising to an under-age audience? And does the consumer have to bring an action in the foreign country if the product or service never arrives or is not what was ordered?
Finally, the informal nature of the medium, the lack of personal contact between buyer and seller, the geographic dispersion of sellers, create new and unprecedented opportunities for consumer abuse through fraud and deception - opportunities so great that, if not effectively addressed, they can undermine the full development of global competition itself. How do we monitor the Internet, and deal with cross-border fraud? This is a daily challenge for this agency; we have brought over 80 cases involving Internet fraud to date.
These are challenging questions and therefore it is all the more important to start a dialogue on these issues among interested parties. Since 1995, the FTC has encouraged dialogue among industry members, consumers, technology experts, and government representatives about emerging issues concerning Internet commerce.
We have an extraordinary program planned for the next two days. Today, we will hear presentations to set the stage, learn about what people think are the core protections consumers want and need, and issues of authentication. Tomorrow, we will examine the framework through which we can secure protections. We will hear discussions of legal frameworks, including jurisdiction and choice of law from both domestic and international perspectives.
We are honored by the participation in this program of outstanding government, business, consumer and academic representatives. No one has been more instrumental in addressing emerging issues and opportunities than our first speaker, Secretary of Commerce William Daley. Along with the President and Vice President, the Secretary has taken measure of this new electronic global market place, seen the problems that lie ahead, and has begun efforts constructively to address those problems.
It is a great pleasure for me to introduce to you Secretary of Commerce, William Daley.