The National Advertising Review Council has announced the publication of procedures for the Online Interest-Based Advertising Accountability Program, administered by the Council of Better Business Bureaus. The Accountability Program seeks to set standards and implement enforcement mechanisms for companies that engage in online advertising based on consumers’ Web-surfing behavior.

The procedures provide a step-by-step explanation of the enforcement process and information about how inquiries are initiated, as well as the content, format, and public reporting of such inquiries.

According to the mission statement for the Accountability Program, it “will monitor covered entities’ compliance; institute inquiries into cases of potential non-compliance; work with covered entities to expeditiously resolve instances of non-compliance; and publish cases of non-participation or uncorrected non-compliance and refer such cases to the appropriate government agency.” The NARC said it anticipates “inquiries and review will focus primarily on OBA issues directly related to the Transparency and Control Principles.”

The NARC said that deliberations, meetings, proceedings, and records of the Accountability Program will be confidential, with the exception of the decision and the press release that will be issued with it.

If the subject of the inquiry elects not to participate in the Accountability Program, the CBBB will compile a fact record and evaluation that it will then forward to the appropriate government agency. Reports of such a referral – and the accompanying press release – may also be released.

Any entity or individual, including the Accountability Program itself, can initiate an inquiry under the procedures. The subject of the inquiry will be notified and have 15 business days to provide either a written statement that it will not participate or a signed participation agreement. If it chooses to participate, the subject of the inquiry must then submit its response.

The challenger may respond in turn, and if so, the subject of the inquiry may respond to the challenger. The Accountability Program may also request a meeting or further information in the inquiry.

After a decision has been reached, the NARC said that any changes to OBA practices recommended by the Accountability Program will serve as guidance to all other covered entities. If the Accountability Program recommends that a subject’s OBA practices be discontinued or modified, it may subsequently request a report on the entity’s progress in implementing the recommendations.

To read the procedures, click here.

Why it matters: Companies that engage in online behavioral advertising are now on notice that they could be subject to review of their practices. “Any company that engages in OBA should be in compliance with the principles,” Genie Barton, vice president and director of the Accountability Program, said in a statement. “Accountability Program staff has been actively working with companies to assist them in meeting their compliance obligations. With these new procedures in place, we are now conducting formal inquiries into instances of possible non-compliance while continuing our efforts to educate companies about the requirements of the Program.”