Electronic contracts would gain the same legal status as handwritten signatures under legislation that has cleared a key congressional hurdle on its way to becoming law.
House and Senate lawmakers, after months of negotiations among themselves and with the administration on such issues as how to protect consumers from abuses, late Thursday reached a compromise.
“This legislation will revolutionize the way consumers, industry and government conduct business over the Internet,” said Sen. Spencer Abraham (R-Mich.), sponsor of the Senate bill.
Both the House and Senate easily passed e-signature bills last November, but resolving differences between the bills proved difficult. The administration and some Democrats opposed sections they said could weaken consumer protections, while business groups lobbied against provisions on consumer consent.
Rep. Thomas J. Bliley (R-Va.), who heads the House Commerce Committee, said the House is likely to take up the compromise plan Tuesday. In the Senate, a hurdle to quick passage was removed Friday when Senate Banking Committee Chairman Phil Gramm (R-Texas) said he would vote for the bill.
Marc Brailov, spokesman for the American Electronics Assn., said his group is pleased with the final product. He called it “a vital prerequisite to the continued growth of e-commerce.”