National Telecommunications and Information Administration
Docket No. 010222048-1048-01
Notice, Request for Comments on Section 105(a) of the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act
AGENCY: National Telecommunications and Information Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce
ACTION: Request For Comments on the Section 105(a) of the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act
SUMMARY: The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) invites interested parties to review and comment on section 105(a) of the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act ("ESIGN" or "the Act") (Pub. L. No. 106-229, 114 Stat. 464). Section 105(a) requires the Secretary of Commerce to conduct an inquiry and report to Congress on the effectiveness of delivery of electronic records to consumers using electronic mail as compared with the delivery of written records via the United States Postal Service and private express mail services. In connection with this report, this Federal Register notice is intended to solicit comments from interested parties. NTIA invites the public to submit comments on section 105(a) of the ESIGN Act in paper or electronic form. All comments submitted in response to this Notice will be posted on the NTIA website.
DATES: Interested parties are invited to submit comments no later than April 2, 2001.
ADDRESSES: Comments may be mailed to Josephine Scarlett, Office of the Chief Counsel, National Telecommunications and Information Administration, Room 4713 HCHB, 1401 Constitution Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20230. Paper submissions should include a diskette in ASCII, WordPerfect (please specify version) or Microsoft Word (please specify version) format. Diskettes should be labeled with the name and organizational affiliation of the filer, and the name version of the word processing program used to create the document.
In the alternative, comments may be submitted electronically to the following electronic mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org. Comments submitted via electronic mail should be submitted in one or more of the formats specified above.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Josephine Scarlett, Office of the Chief Counsel, telephone: (202) 482-1816; or electronic mail: email@example.com. Media inquiries should be directed to the Office of Public Affairs, National Telecommunications and Information Administration, at (202) 482-7002.
Advances in information technology and increased Internet usage in domestic and international business transactions have produced significant benefits to U.S. businesses and consumers. Electronic commerce or "e-commerce" has contributed significantly to the growth of the U.S. economy in recent years. Census Bureau statistics show that total retail e-commerce sales for 2000 reached an estimated $25.8 billion, and accounted for .08 percent of the total retail sales. Although commercial transactions over the Internet have increased over previous years, one of the greatest burdens to the growth of Internet commerce has been the lack of consistent, national rules that govern the use of electronic documents and signatures in electronic business transactions.
In order to promote continued growth in electronic commerce, Congress enacted ESIGN on June 30, 2000. ESIGN facilitates the use of electronic documents in domestic and international commerce and reinforces the validity and enforceability of electronic contracts and signatures. The Act gives businesses the option of transmitting electronic copies of documents that are legally required to be provided to consumers in written form, and provides consumers with the option of receiving electronic copies of these documents. ESIGN does not apply, however, to all documents and notices that are required to be presented in writing.(1)
Section 105(a) of ESIGN directs the Secretary of Commerce to prepare a study comparing the effectiveness of electronic mail in the delivery of electronic records with the effectiveness of traditional methods of document delivery (e.g. mail, express delivery services), and to report the findings of the study to Congress no later than June 30, 2001. NTIA invites interested parties to submit comments on the general issue of the effectiveness of electronic mail in the delivery of electronic documents in comparison to the traditional methods of document delivery and on the specific issues set out in this Notice.
NTIA recently sought public comment on a joint study conducted with the Federal Trade Commission on section 105(b) of the ESIGN Act.(2) The joint study being conducted under section 105(b) concerns the consumer consent provisions of the ESIGN Act and is separate from the study being prepared for this Notice. Comments submitted in this proceeding may be used in preparation of the report to Congress regarding the consumer consent provisions of the Act under section 105(b). Parties should note or incorporate by reference any comment that was submitted in conjunction with the joint study under 105(b) that also should be considered in this study.
II. Statutory Language Requiring a Report to Congress
The statutory language requiring the Secretary of Commerce to submit a report to Congress on the effectiveness of electronic mail is found in section 105(a) of ESIGN and is set forth below.
Sec. 105. STUDIES.
(a) DELIVERY.-- Within 12 months after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary of Commerce shall conduct an inquiry regarding the effectiveness of the delivery of electronic records to consumers using electronic mail as compared with delivery of written records via the United States Postal Service and private express mail services. The Secretary shall submit a report to the Congress regarding results of such inquiry by the conclusion of such 12-month period.
III. Specific Questions
The Department seeks comment on the following specific questions. Parties need not address all questions, but are encouraged to respond to those about which they have particular knowledge or information.
1. Section 103 of ESIGN provides exceptions for testamentary and domestic relations documents, court orders, notices of cancellation for utility services and health benefits, housing or rental foreclosure and default notices, and product safety and hazardous material notices. ESIGN does not affect state or federal laws that require a writing for these type of documents and notices.
2. See Request for Comment and Notice of Public Workshop: Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act, 66 Fed. Reg. 10011 (Feb. 13, 2001). The notice and comments received concerning the joint study are also available on NTIA's homepage at <http://www.ntia.doc.gov>.