National Sectoral Laws

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Austria

Canada

Denmark

Finland

Italy

  • The Italian Anti-Spam Law (Attuazione Della Directtiva 97/7/CE Relativa Alla Protezione dei Consumatori in Materia di Contratti a Distanza), no. 185, May 22, 1999. Please note that this law is in Italian.

New Zealand

South Africa

Spain

Sweden

United Kingdom

United States

 

THE TELECOMMUNICATIONS ACT

General Overview

The Telecommunications Act, 47 U.S.C. fl 222, is a federal law that addresses consumer concerns on phone solicitation. The law imposes restrictions on the use of automated phone dialing systems, artificial or prerecorded voice messages and fax machines to send unsolicited advertisements. Where calling information is obtained from one telecommunications carrier from another, the Telecom Act stipulates that the sole purpose must be the provision of communications service.

The Telecom Act of 1996 is a major overhaul of telecommunications law. The goal of the legislation is to let any communications business compete in any market against any other. The FCC hopes to open up phone markets and increase competition in long distance services.

Consumer Provisions

The Act places restrictions on the use of telephones and telephone dialing systems defined as "equipment which has the capacity:

(A) to store or produce telephone number to be called using a random or sequential number generator; and (B) to dial such numbers."

Telephone solicitation is defined as "the initiation of a telephone call or message for the purpose of encouraging the purchase or rental of, or investment in, property, goods, or services..."

It is unlawful under the Act to call emergency numbers in the absence of an emergency. Calls to residences may not be by use of a recorded voice without prior consent of the called party.

The Act includes provisions protecting the privacy of "Customer Proprietary Network Information" (CPNI). The Act defines CPNI as "information that relates to the quantity, technical configuration, type, destination, and amount of use of a telecommunications service subscribed to by any customer of a telecommunications carrier, and that is made available to the carrier by the customer solely by virtue of the carrier-customer relationship." A phone company must disclose to a customer who requests in writing the customer's calling information that the phone company must provide by law to its competitors (called customer proprietary network information). 47 U.S.C. 222 (c) and (d).

The Report on FCC Implementation of the Telecom Act of 1996 is a report of all actions taken since February 1996 by the FCC to implement the Act. It is divided into two sections -- the Commission's actions and facilitating public information. Transcripts of all hearings are also available.

Remedies

An aggrieved party may sue for actual damages or "receive $500 in damages for each... violation" whichever is greater. If the court finds that the defendant willfully or knowingly violated a person's rights, it may increase the amount of damages by up to three times the actual damages. District courts have exclusive jurisdiction over actions brought under the Act. Permanent and temporary injunctive relief is also available where appropriate.

Enforcement

The Communications Act directs the FCC to make sure schools, libraries and health care providers are included in the information super highway. The universal service section of the Act, section 254, will help these institutions gain access to the latest services and technology at discounted rates.

 

RIGHT TO FINANCIAL PRIVACY ACT (RFPA)

General Overview

In 1978, Congress passed the Right to Financial Privacy Act (RFPA) 12 U.S.C. sec. 3401 et seq., providing some confidentiality to the financial records of depositors by governing the transfer of financial records. The RFPA attempts to strike a balance between the privacy interests of consumers and the interests of law enforcement officials. In general, banks are prohibited from disclosing client payment information to the government without a court order, although the law does have a number of important exceptions.

Consumer Provisions Under RFPA, nearly all federal investigators must provide "formal written requests" to inspect the financial records of an individual kept by a financial institution. The agent must give notice at the same time to the individual, who then has an opportunity to challenge the access.

Transfers must be relevant to a legitimate need within the jurisdiction of the receiving agency or department.

A customer must be notified in writing of such transfer within fourteen days. Notice may be delayed, however, if transferring agency has an appropriate court order.

Remedies

Injunctive relief is available to require that the procedures of RFPA are complied with. Costs and attorneys' fees as determined by a United States district court may be recovered. Civil penalties may be recovered in the amount of $100 without regard to the volume of records involved; any actual damages suffered and punitive damages as allowed by a court.

Enforcement

The Director of OPM may initiate investigation into alleged wrongdoing. The United States district courts have jurisdiction over court proceedings. There is a three year statute of limitations on actions.

 

ELECTRONIC FUNDS TRANSFER ACT

General Overview

The Electronic Funds Transfer Act, 15 U.S.C. flfl 1693 - 1693r, establishes "mandatory guidelines for the relationship between consumers and financial institutions in connection with electronic fund transactions." The primary objective is the provision of individual consumer rights.

Consumer Provisions

The Act requires institutions operating electronic banking services to inform customers of the circumstances under which automated banking account information will be disclosed to third parties in the ordinary course of business.

The Act does not restrict the gathering of personal information or limit the duration of storage of transaction records.

Under section 1693k: "No person may:

  • (1) condition the extension of credit to a consumer based on such consumers repayment by means of preauthorized electronic funds transfers; or
  • (2) require a consumer to establish an account for receipt of electronic fund transfers with a particular financial institution as a condition of employment or receipt of governmental benefits."

Remedies

Civil liability may be found in the provision of actual damages. In the case of an individual action, damages may be recovered in an amount not less than $100 nor greater than $1,000. In the case of a class action, such amount as the court may allow but not more than "the lesser of $500,000 or 1 per centum of the net worth of the defendant." Attorneys' fees and costs are also recoverable under this Act.

Criminal liability may attach as well. Willful noncompliance with the Act may be punishable by a fine of $5,000 or one year imprisonment or both. If noncompliance involves fraud, counterfeit or forged documents in interstate or foreign commerce, liability will extend to $10,000 or ten years' imprisonment or both.

Enforcement

The EFTA is enforced under section 8 of the Federal Deposit Insurance Act (12 U.S.C. sec. 1818) in the case of national banks, federal branches and federal agencies.

 

DRIVER'S PRIVACY PROTECTION ACT

General Overview

The Driver's Privacy Protection Act, 18 USC fl 2721, was passed subsequent to the stalking and murder of actress Rebecca Schaefer by a fan who allegedly retrieved her name and address from a motor vehicle department.

Consumer Provisions

The Act prohibits state Departments of Motor Vehicles and their employees from releasing "personal information" from a driver's record unless the request fits within one of fourteen exemptions. The exemptions include: "use by any federal agency; insurance company; licensed private investigator; or any use related to vehicle safety, emissions, or research..."

The Act requires state motor vehicle departments to provide a citizen a means of prohibiting the disclosure of name, address, social security number, medical information or photograph on lists that are either rented out for marketing purposes or provided to other individuals. Businesses may still receive such information for certain purposes, including safety, insurance, use by licensed investigators, auto alterations or recalls or to verify information previously supplied.

Remedies

A Department of Motor Vehicles that has a policy or practice of substantial non compliance shall be subject to civil penalties imposed by the Attorney General of not more than $5,000 a day for each day for each day of noncompliance. A United States district court may award actual damages but not less than liquidated damages on the amount of $2,500. The court may also award punitive damages. reasonable attorney's fees and litigation costs and such other preliminary and equitable relief as deemed appropriate.

Enforcement

The Act is enforced by the office of the Attorney General for each state and jurisdiction is based in United States district courts.

 

TELEMARKETING AND CONSUMER FRAUD AND ABUSE PREVENTION ACT OF 1994

General Overview

The Telemarketing and Consumer Fraud and Abuse Prevention Act of 1994 , 15 U.S.C. fl 6101-6108, restricts telemarketing calls, especially those made by autodialers. The Act and its regulations provide that companies making sales calls must promptly identify themselves and their product or service. They must announce the cost before asking for money. They must have express, verifiable authorization in writing or recorded before debiting a consumer's checking account. They may call only between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. Telemarketing may not be conducted in a pattern that is abusive of consumers' privacy.

Remedies

An action brought by a private person under this Act may be brought in a United States district court. Injunctive relief, as well as damages, costs and fees are available.

Enforcement

The Federal Trade Commission may bring criminal contempt action for violations of Orders under the Act only after, and pursuant to, appointment by the Attorney General of an FTC attorney or a Special Assistant United States Attorney.

"The authority of the FTC to bring a criminal contempt action... expires after two years after the date of the first promulgation of rules of this title."

 

CONSUMER CREDIT REPORTING REFORM ACT

General Overview

In 1996, Congress passed the Consumer Credit Reporting Reform Act, 15 U.S.C. fl 1681-1681t (1997), to help close some of the loopholes found in the FCRA. The Act narrowed the broad "legitimate need" purpose for which credit reports could be disseminated. Consumer credit reports may now be furnished for employment purposes only if the employer certifies that the employee has consented in writing.

Consumer Provisions

Consumers must be able to have access to the nature and substance of the material collected, excluding medical information); the source of the information; the recipients of the information and the "date, original papers, and amounts of any checks" that form the basis for adverse decisions regarding that consumer's creditworthiness.

The conditions for disclosure induce the provision that disclosure must be made within normal business hours and with adequate notice to the consumer.

There are certain restrictions on the use of consumer reports. "... whenever a consumer reporting agency prepares an investigative consumer report, no adverse information in the consumer report (other than information which is a matter of public record) may be included in subsequent consumer report unless such adverse information has been verified..."

Remedies

Willful noncompliance of this Act invokes liability to the injured party. Actual damages may be recovered of not less than $100 and not more than $1,000. Punitive damages as well as attorney's fees and costs are also recoverable.

Enforcement

The Act is enforced under the FTCA 15 U.S.C. section 41, et. seq. The FTC has "procedural, investigative and enforcement powers - including the power to issue procedural rules in enforcing compliance ... and to require the filing of reports, the production of documents and the appearance of witnesses..."

Page last updated March 27, 2003


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