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Steering Towards Transparency: CFPB’s New Circular for Financial Comparison-Shopping

Compliance

Steering Towards Transparency: CFPB’s New Circular for Financial Comparison-Shopping

In an era where digital platforms have revolutionized the way we shop for financial products, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB)’s latest guidance issued on February 29, 2024, serves as a critical wake-up call for businesses leveraging comparison-shopping tools. With a clear mandate to eliminate manipulative practices, the CFPB’s circular underscores the agency’s commitment to fostering a transparent, fair, and competitive marketplace for financial products including credit cards, loans, and banking services.

The circular is a means by which the CFPB can provide guidance which will be looked at by states and other regulators.  As marketers, we have to take these seriously and look at our current practices to ensure we are ready for any future enforcement based on the CFPBs position on the circular.

To narrow down the multipage document which can be found here, the question posed was “Can operators of digital comparison-shopping tools or lead generators violate the Consumer Financial Protection Act (CFPA) by preferencing products or services based on financial or other benefits to the operator?”  The CFPB’s focus was on how consumers are shown financial products/offers based on the owner of the site being compensated versus whether the financial product was actually the best for the consumer.

Key Highlights of the CFPB’s Guidance

  • Addressing Digital Dark Patterns: The guidance sheds light on how digital dark patterns and manipulated comparison-shopping results can deceive consumers, potentially leading them to make financially detrimental decisions.
  • Emphasizing Unbiased Advice: The CFPB emphasizes the crucial role of providing unbiased and objective advice through digital advertisements and comparison-shopping tools. The guidance aims to ensure that consumers can rely on these platforms to make informed financial decisions without being influenced by hidden agendas.
  • Encouraging Regulatory Vigilance: The circular is a call to action for law enforcement agencies and regulators to diligently evaluate and monitor comparison-shopping tools. By identifying operators that prioritize listings based on undisclosed financial incentives, regulatory bodies can protect consumer interests and promote fair competition.

Impact on the market

This move by the CFPB took a lot of marketers by surprise.  Looked at in totality across all federal regulators, it is clear there is a concerted effort to further restrict lead generation and marketing practices as they exist today.  If you are promoting financial products and your comparisons are based on compensation, focus on your disclosures and making them unavoidable to the consumer.  Put it at the top of the page and not only be clear and conspicuous but make it stand out against the rest of the content. 

The CFPB’s guidance is a clear message to businesses and regulatory bodies alike to prioritize consumer interests and market integrity. Through transparency as the landscape of financial comparison-shopping evolves, adherence to these guidelines will be crucial for compliance.

The information on this page, and related links, is provided for general education purposes only and is not legal advice.
Written by Gayla Huber, President, IntegriShield
Research provided by Jonathan Murphy, IntegriShield

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Gayla Huber, President, IntegriShield, brings two decades of expertise to advise clients across multiple industries in challenges related to compliance, regulations, brand management, lead generation and data analytics. Her affiliate management background gives her compliance monitoring clients insights into lead generation activities and a unique approach to solving marketing issues. For over a decade she has been leading innovation and developing new technology to support highly regulated industries. Dedicated to the growth of her client’s industries, she provides compliance expertise, self-regulation programs, and training for their employees and partners.
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