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The President's Radio Address

November 27, 1999

Good morning. On this holiday weekend, when we count our many blessings, Americans are also busy buying gifts for the next holidays, right around the corner. Today I'd like to speak with you about the remarkable rise of the Internet as a destination for holiday shopping and about how we can ensure that on-line commerce will live up to its enormous promise.

On Thanksgiving, beyond our family's personal blessings, my family and I gave thanks for the enormous prosperity America is carrying forward into the 21st century. One of the key reasons our economy continues to thrive, with the longest peacetime expansion in history, is that we're making the most of new technologies. Especially, the Internet and other information technologies are revolutionizing our economy, powering one-third of our economic growth.

As the Vice President will make clear in a report he'll soon release, few applications of information technology have more potential than electronic commerce. During the holiday season alone, on-line shopping could exceed $9 billion, doubling or even tripling the on-line totals for the same period last year.

About 4 million American families will buy some of their gifts on-line for the first time this holiday season. I intend to join them, because on-line shopping has significant benefits not just for consumers and large, established retailers. On-line commerce also opens a world of opportunity for local artisans and small entrepreneurs.

As with shopping in stores, when consumers shop on the Internet, they must take basic precautions to ensure that what they see is what they get. To help familiarize on-line consumers with these precautions, the Federal Trade Commission has prepared a useful check list. You can find the complete checklist at

But today I'd like to emphasize at least some of the essentials. First, in the on-line world, you must pay close attention to details. Carefully check for shipping and delivery dates, for extra fees, warranties, return policies, and phone numbers to call if you run into a problem. Second, always buy with a credit card. With credit cards you are protected by Federal law against unauthorized charges. Third, guard your privacy at all times. Look for the unbroken key or padlock symbols on the order page to ensure that your credit card information will be transmitted securely. Don't share passwords with anyone, and be sure to read the merchant's privacy policy to see what information is being collected about you and how it will be used.

I'm pleased to announce that, thanks to the leadership of Vice President Gore, many leading companies and organizations, including the Better Business Bureau's OnLine, American Express, MasterCard, Dell, Get Netwise, eBay, America OnLine, and, all are joining with us to protect and educate consumers this holiday season. Many are distributing guides to help people shop on-line safely and wisely. Some are offering financial guarantees that go above and beyond Federal law. If we want Internet commerce to continue to grow, we all must work together to make sure that shopping on-line is just as safe as shopping in a mall.

I'd like to close today by asking all of you to think not only about using the Internet to buy gifts for friends and family but also to give more lasting gifts to our community and our future. As I discovered during the philanthropy conference we held at the White House last month, charitable websites, like, have made signing up to contribute time or money in your community as easy as checking on the weather. So this holiday season, let's use every avenue possible, including the Internet, to give something back to our communities.

Enjoy the rest of your Thanksgiving weekend, and thanks for listening.

NOTE: The address was recorded at 6:17 p.m. on November 26 at Camp David, MD, for broadcast at 10:06 a.m. on November 27. The transcript was made available by the Office of the Press Secretary on November 26 but was embargoed for release until the broadcast.

William J. Clinton, The President's Radio Address Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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