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1 Jan, 2006 By: Thomas Haire, Nicole Urso Reed Response

Trudeau Speaks Out on State of ERA Lawsuit

A We are planning a meeting in Hong Kong in April and expect it to be very successful. The Asia council is extremely active; they've organized and planned what we hope will be a great event. The economy is rebounding in Asia, and the importance of that marketplace will be picking up again. Our efforts will coincide with that.

We're also looking at conducting a trade mission to Latin America in the late spring or summer. We're not sure if it will be in the context of a formal meeting or just a group of interested individuals and companies coming down to the region on a mission to better understand its markets. Our Latin American membership has increased, but it's still fair to say the bulk of ERA's membership knows less about the region than it does Asia or Europe. We need to get our feet on the ground, get a better investment from the board or things won't happen as quickly as they should. If we miss this market, we all miss a substantial opportunity.

Q What has surprised you most during your term?

A The amount of time I'm spending dealing with the chairmanship. Though I've spent a great deal of time working with the association, there's just so much more going on at ERA than in the past. The number of areas ERA is involved in has quadrupled, it seems. Staying abreast of everything has taken a significant time commitment. I spend about three to four hours a day talking to ERA staff, board members, council members and members at large.

Q What are your goals for the remainder of your term?

A There are two main goals. First, we want to build on our initial success with the ORA. Not only will we continue regular meetings and conference calls, we're also looking at hosting a "Washington Day" this spring. We want to bring in a number of companies into the capital for a day for legislative meetings and educational sessions. The key issues ORA needs to focus on are net neutrality, privacy, data security and sales tax streamlining. Net neutrality is a huge topic right now and its really about the control that cable and telephone companies will have over Internet access and how — and for how much — consumers will be able to access new features and technologies that will come online in the future. Consumers may still have access to some of these features, but based on what could happen, will it be the full range of features offered in a new broadband world? Consumers and marketers could end up paying dearly to have that full access.

Second, we are re-examining the self-regulation program. It's done well, but we want to find ways to improve it in certain areas. We'll be looking at the feasibility of an appeals process. Will it slow the process too much? Or will it offer greater due process to companies? We also are considering whether or not to look at back-end practices like refund policies, club memberships and cancellation policies. Often, back-end problems can cause even more harm to consumers and the industry at large than truth-in-advertising up front.

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