2004-01-09 / Columnists

Notes On Consumer Affairs

By Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer
Notes On Consumer Affairs By Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer

Audrey PhefferAudrey Pheffer

As the door closed on 2003, many people opened 2004 with New Year’s resolutions. Common personal promises like going to the gym, forwarding a career, establishing or improving family and other relationships, and beginning a hobby were echoed throughout the nation. As Chair of the Consumer Affairs and Protection Committee, I have many important resolutions for the people of New York. One is to continue representing the needs and concerns of the individuals and families of my district. Another is to continue pursuing progressive legislative initiatives.

Recently, the federal government has enacted or proposed to enact legislation that mirrors many of the initiatives I have pursued in the New York Assembly. Most recently, the Bush administration announced that it will ban the sale of ephedra in early 2004. Ephedra had been linked to many deaths, heart attacks and strokes. Because of these negative health impacts, I held a roundtable that included health professionals, educators, state and federal agencies, and industry professionals. The focus was on how New York State can better protect its residents from the potentially harmful results of ephedra use. Following the roundtable, I ushered in legislation banning the sale of ephedra in New York State, and the governor signed it into law.

nsolicited commercial electronic mail, also known as "spam", has also been a hot issue, and I have been actively pursuing ways in which it may be limited or eliminated. Aside from introducing bills, I have had extensive dialogue with the attorney general and industry giants. In an act that almost mimics my own footsteps, the federal government passed the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003, federal legislation that regulates the sending of unsolicited electronic mail.

I have vehemently fought to protect consumers’ privacy rights. Privacy rights are imperative because of the new prevalence of identity theft crimes. One of my sponsored initiatives that has become law was prohibiting the printing of full credit and debit card numbers on receipts. I have also strongly advocated for one free credit report every year for any New Yorker who requests it.

On December 4, 2003, President Bush signed into law the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2003. This federal Act will permit consumers to receive a credit report, free of charge, once per year; as well, it requires merchants to omit all but the last five digits of a credit or debit card from store receipts.

I am very pleased that federal laws are keeping pace with the needs of New Yorkers. The fact that the federal government enacts laws that reflect my initiatives is reassuring because it confirms that the bills I support and push to enact are necessary.

For the 2004 year, I will continue to pursue those objectives that will impact all our lives for the better. I look forward to the new year and to hearing your feedback.

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