NTIA Press Releases
For Immediate Release
Monday, February 26, 2001
Contact: Ranjit de Silva
(202) 482-7002

COMMERCE SEEKS PUBLIC COMMENTS ON EFFECTIVENESS OF ELECTRONIC MAIL IN COMMERCIAL TRANSACTIONS

Washington- The Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) today announced it is seeking public comment on the effectiveness of delivering to consumers documents on business transactions through electronic mail.

The comment request, which will be published in the Federal Register shortly, responds to a provision in the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce (ESIGN) Act. The Act, passed by Congress last June, requires the Secretary of Commerce to conduct an inquiry and report to Congress no later than June 30, 2001 on the effectiveness of delivering electronic records to consumers using electronic mail as compared with the delivery of documents through such traditional means as the U.S. Postal Service and private express mail services.

The ESIGN Act does not apply to all documents and notices that are required to be presented in writing and gives businesses the option of transmitting electronic copies that are legally required to be submitted to consumers in written form. It also provides consumers with the option of receiving electronic copies.

In response to another provision in the ESIGN Act, NTIA recently sought public comment on a joint study to be conducted with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to explore the impact on consumers of a requirement that businesses obtain the consent of consumers to receive information electronically. The agencies will host a joint public workshop April 3 on the issue.

Although commercial transactions continued to increase over the Internet, one of the greatest burdens to the continued 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, NTIA said.

Interested parties are invited to submit comments no later than 30 days after the comment request is published in the Federal Register. The text of the Federal Register notice will be available at NTIA's web site www.ntia.doc.gov

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