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Red Flags Rule deadline slip continues to tarnish a pretty good idea.

Well, in my last blog, I was half right and half wrong.  I said that individual trade associations and advocacy groups would continue to seek relief from Red Flag Rules ‘coverage’ and resultant FTC enforcement.  That was right.  I also said that I thought the June 1 enforcement date would ‘stick’.  That was wrong.

Said FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz, “Congress needs to fix the unintended consequences of the legislation establishing the Red Flag Rule – and to fix this problem quickly. We appreciate the efforts of Congressmen Barney Frank and John Adler for getting a clarifying measure passed in the House, and hope action in the Senate will be swift.  As an agency we’re charged with enforcing the law, and endless extensions delay enforcement.”

I think the key words here are ‘unintended consequences’.  It seems to me that the unintended consequences of the Red Flag Rules reach far beyond just which industries are covered or not covered (healthcare, legal firms, retailers, etc).  Certainly, the fight was always going to be brought on by non-financial institutions that generally may not have had a robust identity authentication practice in place as a general baseline practice.  What continues to be lost on the FTC is the fact that here we are a few years down the road, and I still hear so much confusion from our clients as to what they have to do when a Red Flag compliance condition is detected.  It’s easy to be critical in hindsight, yes, but I must argue that if a bit more collaboration with large institutions and authentication service providers in all markets had occurred, creating a more detailed and unambiguous Rule, we may have seen the original enforcement date (or at least one of the first or second postponement dates) ‘stick’.

At the end of the day, the idea of mandating effective and market defined identity theft protection programs makes a lot of sense.  A bit more intelligence gathering on the front end of drafting the Rule may, however, have saved time and energy in the long run.  Here’s hoping that December 31st ‘sticks’…I’m done predicting.