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Public Statements

Eliminate Privacy Notice Confusion Act

Floor Speech

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Location: Unknown

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Mr. SHERMAN. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

I thank the gentleman from Missouri for his tireless work on this.

We passed this bill in this exact form in the 111th Congress, the 112th Congress, and I think the third time will be the charm. We passed it by voice vote once; we passed it again; and this time we're sending it to the Senate with 22 months left to go, so they have little excuse for not somehow dealing with the bill. And by that, I mean passing the bill.

The bill is now narrowly tailored and is very straightforward. It simply revises disclosure requirements originally passed under the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act to eliminate a costly and duplicative requirement that all financial institutions mail their customers a copy of their privacy notice each year, even if there has been no change in the policy. Under the bill, the only documents that won't have to be mailed are identical to what has been mailed to the same person at some previous time.

There may have been a time in our country, even a decade ago, where the natural thing was, Let's rummage around and try to find that privacy policy. Now everybody I know is going to go to the Web and look at it on the day they want to look at it rather than wait for the annual time in which it is mailed to them.

Under the bill, the customer would receive a printed copy of the privacy policy when they become a customer of the financial institution and every time that policy changes. In addition, the privacy policy would be available on the institution's Web site for any customer to look at 24/7, 365.

Mr. Speaker, this is a very minor component of disclosure policy, but every year banks, credit unions, and other financial institutions have to spend millions of dollars to print and send to the same people what they have printed and sent to those people a year before. At best, this is an enormous waste of time, money, and paper. At worst, it causes customers to think there is something new when they are just getting what they got a year ago. It distracts consumers from reading those notices where there has been a change of policy and focuses their attention on something that is duplicative.

This bill makes a simple fix to this problem by requiring the financial institution to provide the privacy notice to their customers when they open the account and each time a change occurs that affects the policy or practice related to the privacy of the customer.

Institutions are still required to post these notices on their Web sites and to provide a toll-free number that customers can call to request a copy of that policy at any time. The bill simply says you don't have to mail out the same policy document year after year after year.

As a result, customers will know that when they get a privacy notice, it's something new and deserves their attention, or at least contains some new information. And banks and credit unions and other financial institutions that have been spending millions of dollars to mail out redundant policies can redirect those savings back to the customers.

Mr. Speaker, I again want to thank Mr. Luetkemeyer, the Representative from Missouri, for his tireless leadership on this issue. This is a commonsense fix that both parties can agree on, and I hope that we can pass this bill by voice vote and go on to something else.

I see no Democratic speakers; and on that basis, I yield back the balance of my time.

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