Senate Considers Quieter TVs, Louder Cars

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While the Financial Reform Bill and BP hearings are getting all the attention, Congress is busy with other legislation on everything from quieter commercials to louder cars.

The clock is ticking on the U.S. Senate this summer – Congress adjourns for summer recess Aug. 9, 2010. But before the Senate trades budget resolutions for bathing suits, there’s still plenty of last-minute business to take care of up on Capital Hill.

Fear not, for the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee is on the case with several bills geared toward protecting consumers.

Let’s take them one at a time:

  • Internet sales safety bill. Internet companies that bait online shoppers with “free” online memberships that later turn up as charges on consumers’ credit card bills are a big Congressional target. The Restore Online Shoppers Confidence Act seeks to end such practices, which have been the subject of a year-long Commerce Committee investigation. Particularly irksome to legislators is the practice of refusing to give consumers their money back when they call to question the mystery charges on their credit and debit cards. Bill Sponsor Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., says that club membership scams are a $1.4 billion business annually.
  • Quieter TV commercials. The Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation Act (CALM), would force television stations to adhere to a uniform “loudness” standard. Often, at the behest of advertisers, TV stations “pump up the volume” on commercials to get viewers’ attention. The legislation would result in a new uniform volume standard for both programs and commercials.
  • Louder Cars. Volume is a problem with cars as well, according to Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry. He has proposed legislation that would mandate all cars – especially hybrids – make some minimal level of sound. Higher volume would especially alert blind pedestrians if a car were approaching at an alarming speed. “It would be irresponsible if the best new technology to protect the environment inadvertently endangered the blind,” Kerry said in a statement.

All three bills stand a good chance of passage, Washington insiders say. If so, look for stronger online marketing regulations, more peaceful television commercials, and slightly louder cars heading your way.

Stacy Johnson

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