Congress recently returned from recess to address a host of issues. Healthcare will continue to dominate the immediate legislative agenda, but we expect attention to other issues to increase as well. In the Senate, the Senate Commerce Committee is expected to continue a series of hearings in its oversight role of the FTC. The Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Insurance held two hearings in July 2009 to examine advertising trends and consumer protection issues. The first hearing examined the proliferation of financial scams in a down economy. The second explored the negative impact that deceptive advertising has on consumers and the effect of different communication tools, such as testimonials and blogs, in the market. Additional related hearings are expected in the coming months.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee is expected to circulate draft privacy legislation this fall with corresponding hearings. This will follow the June 2009, joint hearing held by the Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection and the Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet to examine online behavioral advertising practices and to consider whether federal privacy legislation is necessary to address concerns associated with these practices.
We also expect the House Financial Services Committee to continue its consideration of H.R. 3126, the Consumer Financial Protection Agency Act (“Act”). On July 8, 2009, House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank (DMA) introduced H.R. 3126. The Act would give sweeping authority to a newly created Federal Consumer Financial Protection Agency (“Agency”). The Agency would be an independent agency in the executive branch and would be the primary authority for protecting consumers in the financial services marketplace. While the Act would transfer authority over consumer financial protection from many of the financial regulators to the Agency, the Act would also grant the Federal Trade Commission new rulemaking and enforcement powers, including the authority to pursue aiders and abettors. The Act had been moving quickly through Committee until concerns arose with the breadth and scope of the Act. A markup of the bill is now expected to take place in mid-October.