Summary: H.R.170 — 106th Congress (1999-2000)All Information (Except Text)

Bill summaries are authored by CRS.

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Passed House amended (11/02/1999)

Deceptive Mail Prevention and Enforcement Act - Amends Federal law to revise the current prohibition against mail solicitations by a nongovernmental entity for a product or service, for information, or for the contribution of funds or membership fees, which contain a seal, insignia, trade or brand name which could reasonably be construed as implying any Federal Government connection or endorsement. Prohibits, in addition, any such matter which contains: (1) a reference to the Postmaster General, citation to a Federal statute, or the name of a Federal agency, department, commission, or program; or (2) any reference to the Postmaster General or a citation to a Federal statute that misrepresents either the identity of the mailer or the protection or status afforded such matter by the Federal Government. Allows the mailing of such matter if it meets certain existing requirements and, in addition, does not contain a false representation stating or implying that Federal Government benefits or services will be affected by any purchase, nonpurchase, contribution, or noncontribution.

(Sec. 2) Declares nonmailable any matter otherwise legally acceptable in the mails if it constitutes a solicitation for the purchase of or payment for any product that is provided by and may be obtained without cost from the Federal Government, but does not contain a statement giving notice of such information.

(Sec. 3) Prescribes mailability restrictions and disclosure requirements for sweepstakes, skill contests, and facsimile checks.

Exempts from such restrictions and requirements any matter that appears in a magazine, newspaper, or other periodical if the matter: (1) is not directed to a named individual; or (2) does not include an opportunity to make a payment or order a product or service.

Requires persons who use the mails for any matter containing sweepstakes, skill contests, facsimile checks, or specified related material to adopt reasonable practices and procedures to prevent the mailing of such matter to persons who submit written requests to the mailer or to the attorney general of the appropriate State (who then transmits the request to the mailer) that such materials should not be mailed to them. Requires persons who mail matter to which nonmailability restrictions apply to maintain or cause to be maintained records of all such requests that permit the suppression of the names of such requesters for a five-year period beginning on the date of the written requests.

(Sec. 4) Makes postal law sanctions involving false representations and lotteries applicable to deceptive mailings under this Act.

(Sec. 5) Allows the Postal Service to apply for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunctions in the preparation for or during the pendency of proceedings concerning deceptive mailings.

Repeals Federal law that authorizes the Postal Service to: (1) direct a postmaster to deny delivery of, and return as "Unlawful Matter," obscene literature mailed by a commercial distributor; and (2) forbid payment by a postmaster to such a person (or his representative) of any money order or postal note drawn to the order of either, or provide for return to the remitter of the sum named in the money order.

(Sec. 6) Increases civil penalties for violation of current postal law sanctions and establishes civil penalties for violation of this Act.

(Sec. 7) Authorizes, under specified conditions, the use of administrative subpoenas by the Postmaster General in any investigation involving nonmailable matter.

(Sec. 8) Requires a promoter who originates and mails or causes to be mailed any skill contest or sweepstakes (except those not directed to a named individual, or that do not include an opportunity to make a payment or order a product or service) to: (1) include with each mailing a clearly and conspicuously displayed statement which includes the address or toll-free telephone number of the notification system established under this Act and states that such system may be used to prohibit the mailing of any skill contest or sweepstakes by that promoter to such individual; and (2) establish and maintain a notification system that provides for an individual or other duly authorized person to notify the system of the individual's election to have his or her name and address excluded from all lists of names and addresses used by that promoter to mail such material.

Declares nonmailable any skill contest or sweepstakes otherwise legally acceptable in the mails that is addressed to an individual who made an election to be excluded from the promoter's list.

Establishes a private, individual right of action in State court for those individuals who receive such mailings to: (1) enjoin such violation; and-or (2) recover for actual monetary loss from such violation or to receive $500 in damages for each such violation, whichever is greater. Allows the court to increase the award to three times such amount if the court finds that the defendant willfully and knowingly violated this prohibition.

Prohibits the commercial use of any list of names and addresses compiled from individuals who exercise an election to be excluded from such list .

Establishes civil penalties for: (1) persons who violate the prohibition; and (2) promoters who recklessly mail such nonmailable matter or fail to comply substantially with the notification system requirements.