|March 30, 2000
Donald S. Clark, Secretary
Bealls, Inc. is a retail chain based in Bradenton, Florida that issues its own private label credit card. The following are comments regarding the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (G.L.B. Act) passed November 12, 1999 which regulates the disclosure of non-public personal customer information. The sections of the G.L.B. Act that could potentially have the greatest impact on our financial and personnel resources are (1) continuing customer relationship definitions, (2) annual notice disclosures and distribution, (3) annual notice disclosure effective date, and (4) sharing account information for marketing purposes.
Continuing Customer Relationships
In § 503(a) of the G.L.B. Act the regulation requires that annual notices be provided "during the continuation" of a customer relationship. It also states that we would not be required to provide notices to customers with whom we no longer have a continuing relationship. We understand this to mean that we do not have a continuing relationship with a customer if we have not communicated with them in 12 consecutive months, the account is paid in full, or the account has been charged off. If a customer has not received a billing statement from Bealls, Inc. within 12 months of the date that the annual disclosure is distributed, we should not be required to mail a notice. We do not feel that it would be fair to be required to mail to customers that may never reactivate their customer relationship with us. Additionally, we request that if a customer re-activates more than 30 days from the date the annual notice was mailed to all other active customers Bealls should not be required to mail an annual notice immediately. The regulation should define when the next subsequent mailing should be mailed to newly reactivated customer accounts.
Annual Notice Disclosure and Distribution
Bealls Inc, currently has over 340,000 open credit card accounts however only 153,000 are active meaning that we have a continuing relationship with them. If we estimate that the annual notice will be approximately $0.50 per customer, the total cost will be $76,500. Although this may not be a large number to other retail operations, this is a very significant number to a retailer of our size. If we are required to distribute an annual notice each time a customer re-activates, this could be a very high administrative cost. We would like to propose that we be allowed to combine the notification of reactivated accounts with the notice that we are required to distribute annually.
Annual Notice Disclosure Effective Date
In § 313.16, the effective date is noted as November 13, 2000. There is also language stating the initial disclosure must be made no later than thirty days after this date for all customers that meet the "continuing relationship" requirement on that effective date. As with most retailers, the November time frame is our busiest time of the year because of the holiday season. Additionally, if the customers receive mailings from every financial institution at the same time of the year they will be less likely to review the information because of all the other marketing mail they receive during that time of the year. We would like to suggest a staged disbursement that would begin in January 2001 and would end in February 2001. We have nine billing cycles that are staged over a one-month period and we would prefer to place the initial annual notice as a statement stuffer to reduce costs. We would then do an independent mailing to all other customers that meet the "continuing relationship" requirement. A mailing beginning in January 2001 would allow Bealls, Inc. to reach the greatest number of customers via statement stuffer.
Sharing Account Information for Marketing Purposes
In §313.13 the regulations indicate that we must not directly or through an affiliate, disclose, other than to a consumer reporting agency, an account number to a non-affiliated third party for use in telemarketing, direct mail marketing or other marketing through electronic mail. As we are a relatively small credit card operation, we are required to use non-affiliated mail houses to mail promotional correspondence to our private label credit card customers. In most cases, we do not send out any promotional material with credit card customers. However, in cases where we need to mail out several thousand new credit cards to customers we do outsource this function to our mail house. We would like clarification on whether non-affiliated third parties that are providing a service on our behalf would be subject to section §313.16. If "mail houses" are included, we would like to suggest that "mail houses" be excluded from this section of the regulation because they are not doing independent marketing to our customers.
We would like to thank you for taking the time to review the above comments. We hope that our comments and concerns will be taken into consideration as you make your final decisions regarding these issues.