|Received:||9/28/2004 12:36:28 PM|
|Commenter:||B. Alan Morris|
|Agency:||Federal Trade Commission|
|Rule:||Prescreen Opt-Out Disclosure|
Comments:Thank you for the opportunity to comment on proposed regulations to implement certain provisions of the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2003 (FACTA). The value of pre-screened solicitations to consumers is questionable since the criteria solicitors use for screening purposes may be as simple as all consumers in a particular zip code. However, it is well known that these solicitations are a constant burden and irritant to many other consumers. Consumers must be on guard to destroy pre-screened offers to protect themselves from the risk of being an Identity Theft victim. Also, it is well documented that creditors and insurers left to their own devices will engage in abusive consumer marketing practices. As an example, a former employee of MBNA America Bank, N.A., one of the major credit card issuers in the country, related that their business plan included soliciting pre-screened offers to college kids. The strategy being to help them incur revolving debt early in life so that it may never be paid in full. While this may be clever as a business strategy, it is also an appalling example of one of the causes of the explosive increases seen in consumer debt levels. Determining how to balance making credit available to consumers who need it and providing the financial industry a conduit to sell their products and services, while protecting the right of other consumers to, frankly, be left the hell alone, is not an easy task. Although an overwhelming majority of consumers support their right to opt-in, the regulatory agencies have instead accommodated the financial industry by requiring consumers to opt-out. An important example of the burden opt-out's place on consumers is demonstrated through annual Privacy Notices, which have proven to be overtly lengthy and confusing. Consumers, who for the sake of time and effort would rather toss them in the garbage than figure out exactly what must be done to effect the opt-out, that is, if an opt-out is even an option. With this in mind and given the massive number of creditors having the potential to send out pre-screened solicitations, it is entirely inappropriate to expect consumers to continue to bear the burden of having to provide opt-outs. Specifically in regard to the proposed pre-screened solicitation regulations, I ask the Commission to consider inclusion of the following requirements: 1. Clear and Conspicuous Standard - require solicitations to include a distinct header (in addition to the prescribed opt-out notice) on each page of a pre-screened solicitation mailer in a minimum 18 point, bold type-face stating, TO OPT-OUT OF FUTURE SOLICITATIONS CALL 1-800-XXX-XXXX. 2. Lifetime Opt-Out - require opt-outs to extend until such time as the consumer formally opts back in. 3. Optional Opt-Out by Mail - require inclusion optional method permitting consumers to opt-out via mail. 4. Punitive Enforcement - require punitive compensation to consumers in the amount of $50.00 for solicitations received after 30 days from the effective date of an opt-out. The solicitation itself serves as prima facie evidence of solicitor's failure to honor the opt-out. Compensation claims are effected by sending a solicitation photocopy via certified mail to solicitor with a request for compensation. Compensation checks, payable to the consumer, must be mailed within 30 days of receipt of the consumer's claim. 5. Old List Prohibition - apply opt-out to lists obtained not only from consumer reporting agencies, but through any source. 6. Handbills and Flyers - apply opt-out to home delivery of handbills and flyers. 7. Statement Inserts - apply opt-out to statement inserts without regard to marketing agreements or affiliation of parties. 8. Apply Universally - apply opt-out to underlying card issuer, no matter how the card is branded, i.e. the opt-out would apply not only to Househould Bank's GM MasterCard, but also to their Southwest Airlines Visa.