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The regulatory considerations to know around digital credit offers

Consumers and businesses alike have been hyper-focused on all things data over the past several months. From the headlines surrounding social media privacy, to the flurry of spring emails we’ve all received from numerous brands due to the recent General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) going into effect in Europe, many are trying to assess the data “sweet spot.”

In the financial services space, lenders and businesses are increasingly seeking to leverage enhanced digital marketing channels and methods to deliver offers and invitations to apply. But again, many want to know, what are the data rules and how can they ensure they are playing it safe in such a highly regulated environment.

In an Experian-hosted webinar, Credit Marketing in the Digital Age, the company recently featured a team of attorneys from Venable LLP’s award-winning privacy and advertising practice.

There’s no question today’s consumers expect hyper-targeted messages and user experiences, but with the number of data breaches on the rise, there is also the concern around data access. Who has my data? Is it safe? Are companies using it in the appropriate way?

As financial services companies wrestle with the laws and consumer expectations, the Venable legal team provided a few insights to consider.

While the digital delivery channels may be new, the underlying credit product remains the same. A prescreened offer is a prescreened offer, and an application for credit is still an application for credit. The marketing of these and other credit products is governed by an array of pre-existing laws, regulations, and self-regulatory principles that combine to form a unique compliance framework for each of the marketing channels.

Adhere to credit regulations, but build in enhanced policies and technological protocols with digital delivery. With digital delivery of the offer, lenders should be thinking about the additional compliance aspects attached to those varying formats. For example, in the case of digital display advertising, you should pay close attention to ensuring delivery of the ad to the correct consumer, with suitable protections in place for sharing data with vendors. Lenders and service providers also should think about using authentication measures to match the correct consumer with a landing page containing the firm offer along with the appropriate disclosures and opt-outs. Strong compliance policies are important for all participants in this process. Working with a trusted vendor that has a commitment to data security, compliance by design, and one that maintains an integrated system of decisioning and delivery, with the ability to scrub for FCRA opt-outs, is essential.

Consult your legal, risk and compliance teams. The digital channels raise questions that can and must be addressed by these expert audiences. It is so important to partner with service providers that have thought this through and can demonstrate a compliance framework.

Embrace the multitude of delivery methods. Yes, there are additional considerations to think about to ensure compliance, but businesses should seek opportunities to reach their consumers via email, text, digital display and beyond. Also, digital credit offers need not replace mail and phone and traditional channels. Rather, emerging digital channels can supplement a campaign to drive the response rates higher.

In Mary Meeker’s annual tech industry report, she touched on a phenomenon called the “privacy paradox” in which companies must balance the need to personalize their products and services, but at the same time remain in good favor with consumers, watchdog groups and regulators. So, while financial services players have much to consider in the regulatory space, the expectation is they embrace the latest technology advancements to interact with their consumers. It can be done and the delivery methods exist today. Just ensure you are working with the right partners to respect the data and consumer privacy laws.