Google to Require BK Counseling Approval & Certification in Debt Services Ads

Online advertising and lead generation play a significant role in connecting consumers with financial products and services. Starting this month, however, the ability of some consumers to learn about debt services will be restricted by Google, according to a recent posting and update to Google’s Advertising Policies for the U.S.

Updates to Google’s Financial products and services policy will restrict the advertisement of debt settlement, debt management services, and credit repair services, and this policy will apply globally. With this change, ads for credit repair services will no longer be allowed to serve, and ads for debt settlement or debt management services will be allowed to serve if they meet the following requirements:

Google allows ads promoting debt services only if the advertiser and provider of these services is an approved non-profit budget and credit counseling agency, as defined by 11 U.S. Code § 111. Advertisers must also be certified with Google.

Although certification requirements have not yet been published, Google generally requires financial services products, landing pages, and ads to meet all local legal requirements. “This policy will apply globally to all accounts that advertise these services directly, to lead generators, and to those who connect consumers with third-party services,” according to Google’s posting.

Most states regulate debt services, although the laws do vary from state to state. Many states, however, allow for-profit and nonprofit entities to provide debt management plans and debt settlement services to consumers. However, many states’ laws require that these entities be licensed and regulate the providers for compliance with statutory requirements, including fee caps, disclosures, bonding, and additional consumer protection policies, procedures, and safeguards. In 2010, the Federal Trade Commission amended the Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR) to add specific provisions regulating debt relief services of for-profit debt relief services, including credit counseling and debt settlement. The TSR is enforced by the FTC and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, state attorneys general, and, in limited situations, consumers.

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