The Online Interest-Based Advertising Accountability Program made its first referral to a government agency, by passing along information to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau about SunTrust Bank’s refusal to participate in the Program.

Launched in 2011, the Accountability Program enforces the ad industry’s Self-Regulatory Principles for Online Behavioral Advertising. The OBA principles – developed by an industry coalition – require companies to provide consumers with notice and an opt-out mechanism when a third party collects their information and when an ad is based on that data.

While examining the Web site for SunTrust Bank Inc., the Accountability Program observed “what appeared to be third parties known to be engaged in collecting consumers’ web browsing activity in order to serve them interest-based ads.” However, the site was not providing real-time notice to consumers of the data collection or providing a way to opt out.

The Accountability Program sent SunTrust a letter of inquiry. But the Bank “declined repeatedly” to participate in the inquiry, writing, “Our institution is monitored by a sizeable number of both federal and state agencies and is subject to regulatory exams and reviews on an ongoing basis. Complying with these demands consumes all of our allocated resources.”

The Accountability Program then referred the Bank to the CFPB. “Pursuant to its policies and procedures, the Accountability Program has discretion to refer any company that refuses to participate to the appropriate government agency, in this case the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau,” the regulatory group said.

To read the Program’s press release about the referral, click here.

Why it matters: During its three years of enforcement, the Accountability Program has concluded 32 inquiries, all of which until now, were closed with 100 percent industry compliance. The referral of SunTrust Bank marks the first time that the CFPB has been notified.