Skip Header

Federal Deposit
Insurance Corporation

Each depositor insured to at least $250,000 per insured bank

FDIC Law, Regulations, Related Acts

[Table of Contents] [Previous Page] [Next Page] [Search]

4000 - Advisory Opinions


Whether the Rules Regarding the Use of the FDIC Logo Apply to Insured Institution Web Sites

November 3, 2000

FDIC--00--10

Marc J. Goldstrom Counsel

Re: Advertising FDIC insurance on Bank Internet Sites

Thank you for your letter to the Dallas Regional Office. The FDIC logo inquiries in that letter have been forwarded to our office for review and response. The apologize for the delay in responding.

As we understand from your letter, X offers web design and Internet banking services to a number of FDIC insured institutions. These services include providing institutions with transactional Internet banking pages allowing institution customers to view account balances, transactions, and statements. These pages include bill payment and cash management features. Another service that you specifically referenced is X's portal product. This product is a web page that contains portals to other sites. Some of the portals are to sites providing news or information, while other portals are to sites offering products and services that are not provided by the insured institution. These products could, but do not necessarily, include nondeposit investment products ("NDIPs"). Some insured institutions may consider the portal page to be their home page while others may not.

You have requested an explanation of the rules regarding the use of the FDIC logo as they apply to insured institution web sites. More specifically you have asked for the following guidance:

1. An explanation detailing which standard web-based pages and qualifying Internet-based activities and features require the inclusion of the FDIC logo on the insured institution's web page.

2. An explanation detailing the types of web pages on an insured institution's web site that do not necessarily require the FDIC logo to be displayed.

3. A description of the types of pages in an insured institution's web site upon which the FDIC logo should not appear.

4. Whether or not the FDIC logo is required on X's transactional Internet banking pages?

5. Whether the FDIC logo is required on X's portal product?

Background

Part 328 of the FDIC's regulations, 12 CFR 328, governs the use the official bank sign (FDIC logo) and the official advertising statement (Member, FDIC). Banks must use the official advertising statement in an advertisement, unless the type of advertisement is specifically exempted from the requirement. Banks may, however, substitute the official bank sign (FDIC logo) or words to the effect that the bank is "FDIC insured" in place of the official advertising statement. 12 CFR 328.3(b); 328.3(c)(11). For purposes of this letter only, references to the official advertising statement shall also apply to the official bank sign (FDIC logo) and words to the effect that a bank is "FDIC insured."

The requirements with respect to the official advertising statement apply only to banks and do not apply to savings associations. Accordingly, our answers below only apply to banks, except for the discussion entitled "A description of the types of pages in an insured institution's web site upon which the official advertising statement should not appear." This section applies to all insured institutions.

With the foregoing in mind we have provided the analysis and specific guidance that you requested.

Analysis

A bank is required to include the official advertising statement in all of its advertisements unless the advertisement is specifically exempted from the requirement under section 328.3(c). Thus the determination as to whether to include the official advertising statement on a particular web page on a bank's Internet site always involves the following analysis. First, is the web page an advertisement? Second, if the web page is an advertisement, is the advertisement specifically exempted from the official advertising statement requirement under section 328.3(c)?

Bank Web Pages as Advertisements

Part 328 does not define the term "advertisement." In the absence of a definition in the rule, the FDIC will generally use the common and ordinary meaning of the term.1 Webster's dictionary defines "advertisement" as "[a] notice designed to attract public attention or patronage."2 Similarly Black's Law Dictionary defines "advertising" as "[t]he action of drawing the public's attention to something in order to promote its sale."3

We believe that in virtually all cases a bank's home page is a notice designed to attract public attention or patronage and thus is an advertisement for purposes of part 328.4 Moreover, any web page that meets this definition is an advertisement for purposes of part 328. This would generally include most pages within a bank's web site. Indeed, any page that touts either the bank itself or one of its products or services is in our view an advertisement. Conversely, we would not consider a web page that allows customers to conduct transactions or review statements to be an advertisement, so long as the page does not contain other information touting the bank or its product or services.

Exceptions to Official Advertising Statement Requirement

The exceptions to the official advertising statement requirement are listed in Part 328.3(c) of the FDIC's regulations. 12 CFR 328.3(c). This subsection lists 20 exceptions to be required use of the official advertising statement. Many of these sections are not relevant to a bank Internet site.5 The exceptions relevant to a bank's web site6 are as follows:

--Advertisements not setting forth the name of the insured bank

--Joint or group advertisements of insured banks and noninsured institutions

--Advertisements relating to the making of loans by the bank or loan services

--Advertisements relating to safekeeping box business or services

--Advertisements relating to trust business or trust department services

--Advertisements relating to real estate business or services

--Advertisements relating to armored car services

--Advertisements relating to service charges or analysis charges

--Advertisements relating to securities business or securities department services

--Advertisements relating to travel business, including traveler's checks7

--Advertisements relating to savings banks life insurance.

If a particular page in a bank's Internet site is an advertisement then it requires inclusion of the official advertising statement unless it is subject to one of the foregoing exceptions. For example, a web page providing information on deposit products is an advertisement not subject to one of the foregoing exceptions. The web page, therefore, must include the official advertising statement. Conversely, a web page providing information on mortgage loans is an advertisement that is subject to one of the foregoing exceptions. The web page, therefore, need not include the official advertising statement.

Certain web pages may require the official advertising statement even though they may not relate to a particular product or service. For example, a web page that only provides general information on the bank is an advertisement not subject to one of the foregoing exceptions. It therefore must include the official advertising statement. Similarly, web pages that only tout products or services not directly related to insured deposits may require inclusion of the official advertising statement if they are not subject to one of the exceptions listed above. For example, a web page that touts twenty-four hour a day telephone assistance requires the inclusion of the official advertising statement because it is an advertisement not subject to an exception in section 328.3(c).

Specific Guidance

An explanation detailing which standard web-based pages and qualifying Internet-based activities and features require the inclusion of the official advertising statement on a bank's web page.

In accordance with the foregoing analysis, bank web pages that are advertisements and not subject to an exception from the requirement must contain the official advertising statement. The exceptions to the official advertising statement are discussed above. Also, as we have already indicated, most pages within a bank's web site are advertisements because they are notices designed to attract public attention or patronage. Indeed, any page that touts either the bank itself or one of its products or services is in our view an advertisement.

Many bank home pages only contain general information about the bank. Such home pages will require the official advertising statement.

A home page that contains general information about the bank and links to other pages containing information about banking products and services will also require the official advertising statement. Even though a page may contain a link to a type of advertisement that is exempt from the requirement, we do not consider the mere presence of such a link to be an advertisement "relating to" the product subject to the exemption. For example, a home page may contain general information about the bank and contain links to certificate of deposit information, savings account information, checking account information, credit card information, and mortgage loan information. This home page should contain the official advertising statement because it is an advertisement not subject to one of the exemptions listed in section 328.3(c). Even though the home page contains links to loan products and services, we do not consider the mere presence of such a link to transform the home page into an advertisement relating to the making of loans by the bank or loan services.

These principles apply equally to subsidiary pages of a bank's web site. Pages advertising exclusively deposit products, electronic banking services, ATMs, or providing general information about the bank would normally require the official advertising statement. Indeed any web page advertisement not subject to an exception should contain the official advertising statement. A mere link to an advertisement that is subject to an exception does not exempt the page from the official advertising requirement.

In a web page advertisement containing information about both insured deposits and NDIPs, the deposit portion of the advertisement should contain the official advertising statement, provided that the NDIP information has been adequately segregated. This is discussed more fully below in the subsection entitled "A description of the types of pages in an insured institution's web site upon which the official advertising statement should not appear."

An explanation detailing the types of web pages on a bank's web site that do not necessarily require the official advertising statement be displayed.

The official advertising statement is only required on bank web pages that are advertisements. While most web pages are advertisements, we do not consider web pages that allow customers to conduct transactions or review statements and do not contain other information to be advertisements. Such pages do not require inclusion of the official advertising statement. However, information on a transaction or statement page that touts the bank or its products or services, would transform these pages to advertisements. This could trigger the official advertising statement depending upon whether the type of product is subject to one of the exceptions to the requirement.

Any web page advertisement that is subject to one of the exceptions listed in section 328.3(c) need not include the official advertising statement. This would include pages concerning loan products, trust services, and safekeeping box services.

As stated above, any web page that only contains general information about the bank and links to other pages containing information about banking products and services will not trigger an exception to the requirement. However, a page containing links and product and service information could trigger an exception. For example, a home page contains general information about the bank and links to certificate of deposit information, savings account information, checking account information, credit card information, and mortgage loan information. Underneath each of the links is a sentence or two of product information (e.g., one-year CD 7% APR, click hear to find out more; Credit card, no annual fee, low introductory rate, click here to find out more). The home page does not require the official advertising statement because it is an advertisement relating to the making of loans by the bank or loan services. 12 CFR 328.3(c)(12). The fact that the web page also contains information concerning deposits does not negate the exception.

This principle also applies to a web page that contains detailed information about both deposit and loan products. The web page does not require the official advertising statement because it is an advertisement relating to the making of loans by the bank or loan services. 12 CFR 328.3(c)(12). The fact that the web page also contains information concerning deposits does not negate the exception.

NDIPs are specifically exempt from the official advertising statement requirement under section 328.3(c)(19). Advertisement of these products is treated more fully in the next subsection.

A description of the types of pages in an insured institution's web site upon which the official advertising statement should not appear.

The sale of NDIPs by insured institutions presents the risk that customers may believe that such products are FDIC insured. Web pages with detailed information concerning NDIPs should ensure that customers are clearly and fully informed of the nature and risks associated with these products.8 In light of the inherent risk of confusion regarding NDIPs and FDIC insurance, we believe that it is inappropriate for a web page dedicated solely to NDIPs to include the official advertising statement.

This admonition does not apply to a web page in which the only reference to NDIPs is a link to another page providing detailed information. Also, some insured institution web pages contain information concerning both deposit product and NDIP information. The Interagency Statement on Retail Sales of Nondeposit Investment Products, Financial Institution Letter 9--94 (February 17, 1994) (the "Interagency Statement") provides that in advertisements containing information about both insured deposits and NDIPs, the information concerning the NDIPs should be clearly segregated from the other information. In a web page advertisement containing information about both insured deposits and NDIPs, the deposit portion of the advertisement should contain the official advertising statement, provided that the product information has been adequately segregated.

The Interagency Statement predates the pervasive use of the Internet as an advertising medium by the banking industry. We recognize that in some cases it may be very difficult to effectively segregate product information on a web page. Moreover, when advertising a single product with both deposit and NDIP features, such as a sweep account, it may be impossible to clearly segregate the NDIP information from other information. On web pages where the NDIP information is not adequately segregated from the insured deposit information, the official advertising statement should not be displayed.

Is the official advertising statement required on X's transactional Internet banking pages?

As we stated above, we do not consider web pages that allow customers to conduct transactions or review statements and contain no other information to be advertisements. Thus, the official advertising statement is not required on such web pages. However, a transactional web page that also includes information touting either the bank or one of its products or services would be an advertisement. As an advertisement it would require the official advertising statement, unless it was subject to one of the exceptions to the requirement under section 328.3(c).

Is the official advertising statement required on Xs portal product?

The portal product appears to be a web page designed to contain general information about the bank and links to other pages with information about the bank, other merchants and service providers, and topics of general interest. In most cases this would be an advertisement, not subject to one of the exceptions listed in section 328.3(c). Thus, it would require the official advertising statement.

Conclusion

I hope this has been responsive to your inquiry. If you have further questions please contact me at (202) 898--8807 or mgoldstromfdic.gov.

1A fundamental canon of statutory construction is that, unless otherwise defined, words will be interpreted as taking their ordinary, contemporary, common meaning. Perrin v. U.S., 444 U.S. 37, 42 (1979). Go back to Text

2Webster's II New Riverside University Dictionary 81 (1988). Go back to Text

3Black's Law Dictionary 55 (7th ed. 1999). Go back to Text

4The FDIC first expressed this opinion in its proposal to amend Part 328. 62 FR 6142, 6145 (1997). Go back to Text

5For example, advertisements by radio which do not exceed thirty (30) seconds in time is one such exception. 12 CFR 328.3(c)(8). Go back to Text

6Section 328.3(c)(11) exempts from the requirement advertisements that contain statements to the effect that the bank is FDIC insured. While this is clearly relevant to bank web sites, it is for all intents and purposes a substitute for the official advertising statement. Thus, for purposes of this opinion letter we have treated it as a substitute for the official advertising statement (see "Background") and not as an exception to the requirement. Go back to Text

7Not including traveler's checks on which the bank issuing the advertisement is primarily liable. 12 CFR 328.3(c)(19). Go back to Text

8The Interagency Statement on Retail Sales of Nondeposit Investment Products, Financial Institution Letter 9--94 (February 17, 1994) provides that advertisements for NDIPs should inform customers that such products: (1) are not insured by the FDIC; (2) are not deposits or other obligations of, or guaranteed by, the depository institution; and (3) are subject to investment risk, including possible loss of the principal amount invested. Go back to Text


[Table of Contents] [Previous Page] [Next Page] [Search]