Federal regulators have proposed long-awaited affiliate marketing regulations.[@@]

The proposed regulations would help implement the Fair Credit Reporting Act of 2003, which requires banks, thrifts and credit unions to give consumers a chance to opt out of most efforts to share personal financial information with corporate affiliates.

The proposed regulations would have a direct effect on holding companies that own life insurance companies along with banks, thrifts or credit unions.

The U.S. Treasury Department and other financial institution regulatory agencies are asking members of the public to submit comments on the proposed regulations by Aug. 16.

One long section of the proposed regulation attempts to give detailed advice about how financial institutions ought to comply with requirements that notices to consumers and opt-out forms be clear.

Methods might include “using clear and concise sentences, paragraphs and sections; using short explanatory sentences; using bullet lists; using definite, concrete, everyday words; using active voice; avoiding multiple negatives; avoiding legal and highly technical business terminology; and avoiding explanations that are imprecise and are really subject to different interpretations,” according to a discussion of the proposed regulations that appears today in the Federal Register.

The proposed regulation also tries to address possible loopholes in FCRA.

The officials who wrote the regulation are asking how they ought to address efforts to make indirect use of personal financial information. The officials ask specifically for comments about a life insurance company that asks a bank to include life insurance brochures in statements sent to customers who meet certain deposit criteria.

The officials also warn against moves by companies with several corporate names to send opt-out notices bearing the name of an affiliate that is unfamiliar to consumers. If a consumer does business with the ABC affiliate, the opt-out notice should come from ABC, not an affiliate or parent company with another name, the officials write.

One section of FCRA lets financial institutions ignore some privacy restrictions when consumers themselves ask for help.

But financial institutions can make only limited use of that exception, and affiliates cannot apply the exception to consumers who are simply returning the affiliates’ calls, the officials write.

A copy of the proposed regulation is on the Web at http://www.regulations.gov/freddocs/04-15950.htm