Key lawmakers on Tuesday urged Congress to establish a private-sector group that would set national standards and licensing requirements for organizations providing digital signature verification.

"Authentication is a key component of electronic commerce," Rep. Richard Baker, R-La., said at a press conference. "Unless you know who you're talking to, how can you have any confidence in doing business on the Internet?"

Rep. Baker, joined by Reps. David Dreier, R-Calif., and Bill McCollum, R-Fla., introduced legislation in November that would create the National Association of Certification Authorities, a self-regulating organization made up of companies that provide electronic authentication services.

Unless national standards are created, a "patchwork quilt" of state laws will slow the development of electronic commerce, Rep. Baker said. The Louisiana Republican, who is chairman of the House Banking capital markets subcommittee, will hold hearings on the bill in March.

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