February 14, 2008

Jeff Perlman, Executive Vice President – Government Affairs
Clark Rector Jr., Senior Vice President – State Government Affairs
Robert Kohlmeyer, Coordinator – Government Affairs

FTC Reviewing Environmental Marketing Guidelines

The Federal Trade Commission is currently undertaking a regulatory review of its environmental marketing guidelines, or "Green Guides." The guides were last updated in 1998. The American Advertising Federation joined with AAAA and ANA to weigh in on the issue. Our comments urge the FTC to use caution and move slowly in any revision of the guides. The existing Green Guides, as well as existing FTC requirements for the truth and substantiation of advertising claims, are effective in ensuring the truth and accuracy of environmental claims. Additionally, the advertising industry's self-regulatory standards requiring that claims be truthful and substantiated already apply to environmental advertising claims. We believe that substantial revision of the guides could have a chilling effect on environmental advertising claims by creating confusion or uncertainty as to advertising requirements. A copy of the comments submitted to the FTC is available here.
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Rep. Dingell and Sen. Inouye Ask President for DTV Transition Task Force

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman John Dingell, D-Mich., and Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, sent a letter to President George W. Bush asking him to convene an interagency task force to oversee the analog to digital broadcast television transition over the next year. The congressmen suggested that because different federal agencies have specific relationships with constituents, the federal government could optimize their communications with targeted groups, such as senior citizens and low-income families, who will be most affected by the transition. They cited the government's preparedness approach ahead of the computer, banking and infrastructure Y2K transition as a guide for action. The letter was sent ahead of separate House and Senate hearings on the status of industry digital television transition education efforts scheduled for this week. A copy of the letter is available here.
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Markey Introduces Net Neutrality Bill

House Subcommittee on Telecommunication and the Internet Chairman Ed Markey, D-Mass., introduced a network neutrality bill that would direct the Federal Communications Commission to investigate whether Internet service providers restrict the speed at which users access certain content online. H.R. 5353, the Internet Freedom Preservation Act, differs from previously introduced net neutrality bills because it does not offer any regulatory changes but requires the assessment of current industry standards. Efforts to pass a bill requiring net neutrality failed last year. In a statement, Markey said that "principles which have guided the Internet's development and expansion are highly worthy of retention."
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FTC Extends Behavioral Marketing Principles Comments Period

The Federal Trade Commission has extended its comment period for its proposed self-regulatory online behavioral marketing principles. The proposal is a reaction to FTC's behavioral advertising town hall meetings held last fall and seeks to improve best practices involving the use of consumers' personal data. Specifically, the draft principals call for Web site operators to clearly state that data is being collected, to offer tools to opt-out of such tracking, to provide security for the data and to retain it only as long as is needed. Additionally, the principals seek affirmative consent before any sensitive data is collected, or if the data is used in ways different from what the company said it would use the data for when it was collected. The AAF will submit comments to the commission.
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Florida Economists Warn Against Sales Tax Exemption Proposal

Economists hired by the Florida Taxation and Budget Review Commission to review a proposed Florida constitutional amendment that would have eliminated tax exemptions for many business-related expenses, including advertising expenses, said that the plan might cause as many as 53,000 lost jobs in the first year if enacted. Commissioner John McKay, who has long sought the elimination of exemptions on state sales taxes, asked to postpone any action on the plan for two weeks, allowing him time to reconsider his strategy. At the same meeting, committee members rejected a similar amendment that would eliminate the tax exemptions of all services presently excluded from sales tax by 2012 unless the legislature votes to exempt any specific industry. However, the committee approved a proposed amendment that would direct the Florida legislature to review current sales tax exemptions and then eventually revise which industries should benefit from tax exemptions. Florida voters must vote on any changes supported by the commission and legislature before they become law. AAF Fourth District member Jack Hebert is in Tallahassee working with the commission and representing the Florida ad clubs.
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