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WASHINGTON-Four financial services regulators issued guidance last week to help their industries to identify and manage potential risks related to Weblinks, which transport Internet users to a different section of a Web site or to another site. NCUA, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, and the Office of Thrift Supervision expressed concern that members and customers may be confused about the role and responsibility of the financial institution regarding the products or services third parties provide through Weblinks. “The risk of confusion is particularly significant when a Weblink enables a customer to purchase a financial product or service. Customer confusion can also occur if it is unclear whether financial products from linked third parties are federally insured,” according to a statement announcing the guidance. Accordingly, the guidance urges credit unions, banks, and thrifts “to use clear and conspicuous disclosures to explain their limited roles with respect to products and services offered by third parties.” The regulators also suggested the financial institutions have programs to handle customer complaints, conduct due diligence, and monitor the activities of linked third parties. Financial institutions should review the types of products or services and the overall Web site content and determine whether the links support the institution’s overall strategic plan. Conducting due diligence and obtaining written agreements are appropriate. NCUA’s Letter to Credit Unions (03-CU-08) on the subject, as well as a link to the guidance, is available at the agency’s Web site at http://www.ncua.gov/ref/letters/letters.html.

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